WASHINGTON—An Education Department official who mounted “a demagogic attack on Hispanic-Americans” by linking bilingual education to communist terrorism should be fired, an Hispanic lawmaker says.
Rep. Bill Richardson, D-N.M., drafted a second letter Tuesday demanding the resignation of R.E. “Rusty” Butler after receiving an unsatisfactory reply to his first request, said Richardson’s spokesman, Richard Parker.
Parker said the issue is not the job Butler is doing as special assistant to the deputy secretary for student financial aid, but his views.
“Do you want to hire someone who is betraying a certain amount of prejudice against Hispanics?” Parker said.
Richardson, a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, wrote Education Secretary William Bennett last week to demand Butler’s resignation.
He said a 1985 report by Butler, “On Creating a Hispanic America: A Nation Within a Nation?,” attacked bilingual education and charged that it is part of a plot to create a separate Spanish-speaking nation within the United States.
“Mr. Butler’s report also purports to link bilingual education with worldwide ‘terrorist groups’ who subscribe to ‘Marxist-Leninist’ theories,” the congressman told Bennett in a March 19 letter.
Richardson said the report, written for the Council for Inter-American Security, “cannot be forgotten or forgiven” and he compared the situation to the forced resignation of Eileen Gardner after her controversial views on education for the handicapped were publicized.
Bennett, in a March 23 reply to Richardson, said Butler’s study was “a purely personal research project which will have no influence on the bilingual activities of this department.”He also said Butler’s report was not prepared with department funds “and in no way reflects the administration’s views, or my own for that matter, on the role of bilingual education.”Richardson said he also was concerned that the department had hired Gary Imhoff, a controversial author, to analyze textbooks used in bilingual education teacher-training programs.
He said Imhoff’s previous publications include a 14-page paper against bilingual education and the controversial book, “The Immigration Time Bomb,” co-authored with Richard Lamm.
In addition, Richardson told Bennett the study was an unnecessary federal intrusion into education and “raises the specter of federal textbook censorship.”Bennett said Imhoff had compiled information to improve teacher training and was no longer working for the department. He said the department is reviewing whether to continue Imhoff’s study.
Meanwhile, several education specialists said Congress would be sending the wrong signal to school districts if it adopts a Reagan administration proposal to loosen requirements for bilingual education programs.
The Education Department objects to a requirement that students who do not use English well be taught in their native languages to the extent necessary.
Under current law, only 4 percent of the money in the $143 million program can go to school districts that have other policies and methods. The administration wants to get rid of that cap.
“Methodology should be a local decision,” Carol Pendas Whitten, director of the department’s office of bilingual education, told a House Education and Labor subcommittee Tuesday. “We believe through allowing all methodologies we can better address (non-English-speaking students’) needs.”Several witnesses and congressmen said the native-language requirement is needed to make sure students keep up in their other subjects and maintain their self-esteem while they learn English.