In theory, bilingual education is the best thing that could happen to Hispanic students who speak primarily Spanish in the home.

The idea is that a language barrier would hinder these students’ academic progress if they are taught most classes in English only.

Under a bilingual program, the teacher speaks in English — then repeats herself in Spanish.

Some people argue bilingual education hurts these young people more than it helps them because it diminishes the need to learn English.

A new study, conducted by Hispanic researchers at the University of Maryland and New Mexico State University, suggests they are right.

On average, the two found, first-generation Hispanic students who went through bilingual programs are now earning $ 19,240 a year — about 50 percent less than their peers who received an English-only education.

Among second-generation Hispanics, students from bilingual programs earn about 30 percent less than graduates on English-only programs.

Bilingual education, the two conclude, seems to ‘widen, rather than narrow, the socioeconomic gap between limited-English proficient groups and those for whom language is not an issue.’

The nation spends between $ 8 billion and $ 10 billion a year on bilingual
education programs. It appears that money could be better spent.

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