Bush says bilingual education programs should not be abolished

DALLAS — In a departure from many Republican Party leaders, Gov. George W. Bush voiced support Wednesday for bilingual education programs.

“If the bilingual program serves to teach our children English, then we ought to say, ‘Thank you very much,’ and leave them in place,” Bush said at a national convention of Hispanic activists.

“And if the bilingual program locks someone into Spanish and does not achieve state objectives, then we must say `Change the program, eliminate the program,”‘ said Bush, who switched to Spanish several times during his speech to the League of United Latin American Citizens.

The delegates, some of whom have fought English-only proposals in their states, roared their approval.

Support for English-only proposals by some Republican officeholders has been blamed for driving Hispanic voters away from the party in some states, notably California.

California voters last month overwhelmingly approved Proposition 227, which ends bilingual education and permits only one year of English immersion instruction.

Bush is an overwhelming favorite for reelection this year and a possible presidential contender in 2000. Another possible GOP presidential hopeful, House Speaker Newt Gingrich, also addressed the convention.

Gingrich did not directly address the language issue. He has said in the past he supports making English the nation’s official language.

The Georgia Republican drew his loudest applause when he said the United States shares blame for the prevalence of illegal drugs with the countries where drugs are cultivated.

“There’s no point in talking about bashing Mexico on drugs or bashing Colombia … (or) Bolivia on drugs,” he said. “The primary problem with drugs in the world today is the American market buying them.”

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