Extortion at the Board of Ed

New York Post
Wednesday, July 18, 2001

They're taking hostages again at the Board of Education. This week's victim: A "major" reform of the city's bilingual-education program. (Last week's hostages, recall, were new school buildings in Queens.)

Schools Chancellor Harold Levy is claiming that bilingual-ed reform is "at risk" because of a funding shortfall.

What's the ransom this time?

Only $75 million.

That's how much more Levy says he needs for his reforms.

Of course, he must be low-balling; Levy's ransom demands usually have more zeroes. No doubt, he'll be upping the ante soon enough.

But City Hall says no new money was ever planned for the initiative in the first place. Why, after all, would anyone want to expand a program that doesn't work?

The fact is, bilingual-ed students hardly ever learn to speak English. The best thing would be to scrap the program entirely - like California did.

The Golden State replaced bilingual ed with two years of intensive English. And - presto-chango - test scores soared.

New York, of course, wouldn't dare try that. Too many interests to protect.

Which is too bad for the kids who languish for years as "foreigners" to America's English-language culture.

Meanwhile, if Levy thinks New York's program can be made to work, fine.

We doubt it.

But if he wants to attempt reforms, he's got to keep them within the budget. As Mayor Giuliani has said, "I didn't see this as a 'more money' issue, I saw it as a 'Let's straighten out the program' issue."

And if Levy can't fix bilingual ed with the millions he's already got, then maybe he should just junk the whole program.

It would save New York a bundle - *and* do kids a favor.