Bill would condense bilingual education

BOSTON—The controversial issue of bilingual education reform will erupt again at the Statehouse today, but this year’s debate will take place under the threat of a potential ballot question next year.

State Sen. Guy W. Glodis, D-Worcester, has proposed legislation to scrap the gradual method of teaching English now used in the state and replace it with a one-year rapid immersion program.

While supporters say drastic change is needed because the current system is failing, opponents criticize total immersion” as unduly harsh and anti-immigrant.

Mr. Glodis’ bill died in the Legislature last year. If it dies for lack of support again this year, Mr. Glodis is promising to bring the issue directly to voters next year via referendum.

California multimillionaire businessman Ronald Unz will provide financial backing, and Citizens for Limited Taxation, which was behind Proposition 21/2 in the 1980s, will supply the organizational muscle, Mr. Glodis says.

No one in their right minds can defend the current system,” he said. This system punishes students. Immersion will move kids more quickly into mainstream English so they can succeed.”

Critics of Mr. Glodis’ approach, while open to compromise, say some students can’t learn English fast enough and will be left behind without enough support.

For some parents and students, immersion is a good way to go, but you’ve got to do it depending on their proficiency,” said Ogretta V. McNeil, a member of the Worcester School Committee. For a middle school or high school student who has not even mastered their own language, it becomes punitive.’

Ms. McNeil and others say they would support reforms to bring tougher certification standards to bilingual education teachers.

Mr. Glodis’ bill and others affecting bilingual education will be heard at a hearing of the Legislature’s Education Committee at 10 a.m. today in the Gardner Auditorium in the Statehouse.

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