Congratulations are in order to the teachers and administrators and school board members in the Westminster school district who displayed a dogged tenacity in lobbying state officials for the right to teach kids in English.

Last week, Westminster received the first waiver ever granted by the California Board of Education freeing a school district from counterproductive bilingual-schooling requirements, specifically, the mandate to hire special bilingual teachers in large numbers with the aim of instructing Hispanic and Asian children in a foreign tongue before introducing them to the nation’s predominant language.

Westminster, with its high number of Asian as well as Latino kids, couldn’t find enough bilingual-certified teachers to meet the bilingual mandate. And many teachers and administrators were asking, Why try? After all, the anecdotal evidence of the teachers we’ve talked to, all around Southern California, overwhelmingly says the same thing: Children subjected to bilingual schooling learn English later and less thoroughly _ and as a result are slower in picking up other subjects, if they ever do so.

Changes in state rules allowed a district to apply to opt out of the bilingual hiring mandates, and that’s what the Westminster district decided to do.

“The unfortunate thing is that the district had to spend big resources and time on lawyers and paperwork in this appeals process,” says Gloria Matta Tuchman, a Santa Ana teacher and school-board member in Tustin who is a leading critic of bilingual schooling. “It’s necessary to change the regs so that other districts can gain the flexibility that’s been give to Westminster, but without all the legal and financial hoop-jumping. “

Under the new arrangement in Westminster, what you have is essentially English-immersion schooling for all students. There will be bilingual aides on hand to help with translations for kids coming from non-English backgrounds, but no segregating of kids along linguistic lines. All children will be done the favor of being expected and required to learn, from the outset, the language of commerce and civic and social intercourse in this country.

We at the Register , of course, favor as a practical ideal a school-choice system that allows all parents greater freedom to pick where their kids will be instructed. But that does not mean complacently abandoning children within the public system to experiments that can sideline them for life from the economic mainstream. The people in the Westminster district have won a victory against one such experiment, and their example, one must hope, will trigger broader reforms that offer other districts similar liberation.

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