An overwhelming majority of Hispanic parents want their children taught in English, not Spanish, according to a national survey commissioned by the Center for Equal Opportunity.
Results of the poll of 600 randomly selected Hispanic parents of school-age children – the first of its kind in more than eight years – contrasts sharply with the nation’s bilingual-education policy, in which children are taught in their native language for up to seven years.
“This poll clearly shows that the wishes of Hispanic parents are not being served by bilingual-education programs,” said CEO President Linda Chavez.
“Hispanic parents know that their children need English to succeed in America. They want their children taught English as quickly as possible and to spend as much time being exposed to English as possible,” she said. In the survey set for release today, 81 percent of respondents said they want their child’s academic courses to be taught in English “because he/she will spend more time learning English.”
Responding to questions about educational goals, 51 percent of the parents said “learning to read, write, and speak English” was the “most important,” while 11 percent selected “learning to read, write, and speak Spanish.”
Asked whether children of Hispanic background should be taught to read and write Spanish before they are taught English, 63 percent opted for “English as soon as possible,” nearly 17 percent said “Spanish before English,” and 17 percent volunteered that they should be taught at the same time.
The poll is certain to fan the heated national debate over “official” English and the best method of teaching English to non-native speakers.
President Clinton wants additional funding for bilingual education, but GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole has come out in favor of making English the official language of government and against “multilingual education as a means of instilling ethnic pride, or as a therapy for low self-esteem.”
Supporters of bilingual education include the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the National Education Association.
Last winter, irate Hispanics, armed with pamphlets, took to Los Angeles streets to protest bilingual-education policies they say harm their children.
Many boycotted schools until officials agreed to consider their complaints about the bilingual programs.
A bill to dramatically overhaul California’s bilingual-education law is before the state legislature.
Sally Peterson, who teaches kindergarten in the Los Angeles Unified School District, was “a total supporter” of bilingual education.
“It’s a disaster now,” she said recently. “Let’s call this program what it is. It’s not a bilingual-education program. It’s a Spanish-development program.”
The Center for Equal Opportunity is a nonpartisan research institution that studies the issues of race, ethnicity and assimilation.
The poll was conducted in both English and Spanish by Market Development Inc., a California-based Hispanic survey company, with results analyzed by Diversified Research Inc. of New York.
Questionnaires were administered by telephone in five metropolitan areas where Hispanics are heavily concentrated – Los Angeles, New York, Miami, San Antonio and Houston. Four out of five respondents were interviewed in Spanish. The poll’s statistical accuracy is plus or minus 4 points.
A national poll of 600 randomly selected Hispanic parents of school-age children asked the question: Should academic courses be taught in English or Spanish? Results of the poll, commissisoned by the Center for Equal Opportunity, follow.
ALL HISPANIC PARENTS
Percentage who prefer English = 81.3%
Percentage who prefer Spanish = 2.2%
THOSE INTERVIEWED IN SPANISH
Percentage who prefer English = 79.3%
Percentage who prefer Spanish = 13.3%
THOSE INTERVIEWED IN ENGLISH
Percentage who prefer English = 91.9%
Percentage who prefer Spanish = 6.9%
THOSE CURRENTLY WITH CHILDREN IN A PROGRAM FOR THOSE WHO NEED HELP IN ENGLISH
Percentage who prefer English = 82%
Percentage who prefer Spanish = 12%