WASHINGTON—The Department of Education says its proposed rules on bilingual education, which already are under fire from school officials, could add up to $592 million to the cost of teaching youngsters with limited or no ability to speak English.
That would be in addition to the estimated $169 million to $325 million that school districts already are spending on special language instruction for 831,000 children.
Cost estimates were unavailable when the department proposed rules Aug. 5 that would require bilingual instruction for those who score below the 40th percentile on standardized tests.
The department estimated that 1.4 million students would score that low in English but would do better in their native language, while a half-million others would be comparably limited in both English and their native language.
The department still is trying to decide what should be done for children who are equally limited in both English and their native language.
It estimated that instruction in both languages could cost from $289 million to $592 million, while instruction in the native language only could cost from $176 million to $389 million.
Some education groups have charged the rules would mark the first time the federal government has imposed a method of instruction on the public schools.
The department said schools already would be paying a sizable portion of these costs if they were complying with the informal “Lau Remedies” issued by the Office for Civil Rights in 1975 to guarantee a public education for non-English-speaking children.
In its 50-page document on costs, the department acknowledged the old guidelines are either too vague or too technical and said, “Its requirements are hard to follow.”