Pictures and stories of Hispanic schoolchildren in Clark County’s bulging classrooms are increasingly common media fare. The successes and challenges of these youngsters tug at the heartstrings of our “nation of immigrants.”

Yet the “hypergrowth” of Las Vegas’ Latino population, as described in a new study, raises fresh questions about the impact this population is having on the community at large. Today, a new group calling itself the Nevada Education Council meets here to hash out some of those issues.

Alas, these educators and “business leaders” have one overriding and misguided goal — the propagation of bilingual programs. Alternately known as English as a Second Language (ESL) and English Language Learners (ELL), these bilingual spinoffs cost Nevada taxpayers millions of dollars each year.

And hold onto your wallet: Educrats want to spend millions more on bogus pedagogy that fails kids every day.

Proponents of bilingualism admit defeat when they talk about achieving fluency “by fourth grade.” Note they don’t say in which language, and their timetable suggests that a newly arrived ninth-grader may never master English in school.

Fortunately, state Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, launched a preemptory strike last month when he skewered school superintendents’ bid for $77 million in ESL funding. Doing the math, the Senate leader noted that this would require spending nearly $2,000 more per ESL student. That dog just won’t hunt.

But in case you’ve been vacationing in Antarctica for the past couple of years, the push for ever more expensive Spanish programs is moving full-speed ahead, fueled by the local Latino “hypergrowth” trumpeted in a report from the Pew Hispanic Center and the Brookings Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy last week.

With Las Vegas’ Hispanic populace skyrocketing 750 percent since 1980, the lust for bilingual services goes far beyond the classroom. So we have bilingual drivers’ tests, bilingual ballots, bilingual government newsletters, bonuses for Spanish-speaking civil servants, translators, etc. The price for such accommodation? Our public officials never bother to say.

Whatever the cost, it’s certain to escalate as long as our schools favor ill-conceived and ineffective bilingualism over English immersion programs like those used in California and at Department of Defense schools. Despite their lip service about fluency, Nevada educators expose their true colors when they talk about continuing to teach core curricula in students’ native language.

Quick and full acquisition of English has been the key to success for all preceding generations of immigrants. But Hispanics are breaking that mold. This is a risky proposition for a group that includes many who are not particularly literate in their own language. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, almost two-thirds of adult Mexican immigrants failed to complete high school, compared to fewer than one in 10 native-born Americans. The problem persists over time, with dropout rates of second- and third-generation Mexican-Americans running two-and-a-half times that of other native Americans.

Nevertheless, many of Nevada’s so-called business leaders, notably from our casinos, have bought into a dysfunctional educational system that keeps Hispanics marginalized in English-speaking society. What’s not to like? The unending tidal wave of immigration from south of the border depresses wages and subsidizes companies that employ semi-skilled workers.

Then again, social costs attach. While studies show, not surprisingly, that non-English-speaking immigrants earn significantly less than the native born, an analysis by the National Academy of Sciences reveals that a much heavier dependence on welfare by Mexican migrants far outweighs the supposed societal perks of low-wage gardeners, drywallers and nannies. The NAS could also mention that a quarter of our federal prisoners are illegal aliens.

Immersion in English — not bilingualism — is essential to breaking the cycle of scholastic failure and indentured servitude. Respecting the necessity of extending a country’s mother tongue, the Netherlands is considering a common-sense solution: charging $1,500 for immigrants to take mandatory immersion language classes. The fee would be refunded upon successful completion.

Naturally, that idea appalls U.S. lawmakers who pander for cheap votes and bottom-feeding capitalists who mine cheap labor. Which is why we’ll continue to pay a premium for Hispanic hypergrowth while the elites lecture us on the many wonders of diversity.

Ken Ward (kenricward@juno.com) writes about education every Wednesday. He is author of the recently published history: “Saints in Babylon: Mormons and Las Vegas.”



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