In a decision giving local school districts control over bilingual education, California’s Board of Education recently eliminated a policy requiring that students with limited English skills be taught in their native tongue.

In June Californians will also consider Proposition 227, a ballot initiative that ends most bilingual education – and polls show a statewide majority (including a majority of Hispanic-Americans) favor passage.

National public opinion polls routinely show 90 percent of all Americans support making English the U.S. official language. While making English the official tongue is not the same as eliminating bilingual education, the two issues are intertwined. After all, Spanish-speaking parents nationwide are successfully suing to get their kids out of bilingual education programs!

Why? Bilingual education today is basically a ”maintain-Spanish” approach.

”Native language teaching is not improving educational opportunities,” says Chairman Rosalie Porter of the Institute for Research in English Acquisition and Development (READ). In fact, her researchers have found delayed acquisition of English keeps older students out of core courses and is usually why students with limited English proficiency fail to stay in school and graduate.

Consider this: A New York City study found 80 percent of students enrolled in special alternative English programs were put in mainstream classes within two or three years, compared with 51 percent of students in bilingual or native-tongue programs.

Finally, consider the poignant view of Ernesto Ortiz, a foreman on a south Texas ranch:

”My children learn Spanish in school so they can grow up to be waiters and busboys. I teach them English at home so they can grow up to be doctors and lawyers.”

So why are Wachovia and other banks starting to switch to bilingual signs, and some ATM machines are being programmed to first ask if the user wants to select ”Spanish” or English”? Don’t they know bilingualism is in retreat, and collapsing on most fronts?

Indeed, this newspaper has long held that, if ”truth in labeling” laws applied to bilingual education, the name of the multi-billion dollar program would translate into consumer fraud.

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