The author of the federal bilingual-education law charged that the program has become a sham in New York City, leaving thousands of students illiterates instead of English-proficient.

“Bilingual education is not being practiced in New York. It has become ‘monolingual education,’ which doesn’t help the students,” said Herman Badillo, the former Bronx congressman who championed bilingual education in the 1970s.

Badillo said too many students are being taught exclusively in Spanish or another foreign language – rather than English – which was not the intent of the original law approved in 1974.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” said Badillo, chairman of the City University of New York. He will be one of the experts testifying today at a hearing sponsored by Mayor Giuliani’s Task Force on Bilingual Education.

Badillo, who moved here from Puerto Rico as a non-English speaking 12-year-old, noted a Board of Education analysis of students over the last decade tells the story:

* A whopping 85 percent of ninth-grade students enrolled in bilingual and English as a Second Language programs had not completed the program by the end of high school.

* Some 55 percent of those enrolled in bilingual and ESL programs in the sixth grade in 1991 had not moved into mainstream classrooms after eight years.

* Only half the students in Grades K-9 “tested out” of the “transitional” bilingual and ESL programs within the required three years set by the state. Thousands of waivers were granted to skirt the requirement.

* About 28 percent of those who entered in the third grade were still in the programs nine years later. And 23 percent who entered in the first grade were still in nine years later.

“It’s supposed to be English first, and then Spanish. It wasn’t supposed to be eight years in a program. It was supposed to be transitional,” he said.

Badillo said a federal consent decree in New York is part of the problem, because it allows programs to focus more on native-language instruction than English. The order should be revised, he said.

Board of Education member Irving Hamer, who issued the report on bilingual education, recommended changes, particularly better instruction for older students.

But he also stressed that bilingual programs are not as bad as critics portray them, because many students do learn English.

“The negative conventional wisdom about the instructional programs serving (English Language Learners) is wrong,” Hamer said.

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