Judge Says State Must File Bilingual Education Plan

TYLER, Texas—A federal judge says he can’t wait for the Texas Legislature to find a “political solution” to educating Mexican-Americans, and says the state must submit a bilingual education plan immediately.

U.S. District Judge William Wayne Justice on Wednesday denied the state’s request to extend his March 9 deadline to June 15, two weeks after the Legislature adjourns.

State Attorney General Mark White said he hadn’t studied Wednesday’s ruling, but he said he was “surprised.”

The judge said the state’s request was based on the “unsubstantiated hope” that a political solution could be found.

Justice ruled in January that the state’s bilingual education program is inadequate and ordered the plaintiffs — including the Justice Department, the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund and the G.I. Forum — to work out proposals for him to study.

The plaintiffs submitted their proposals March 10.

Current state law requires bilingual education, when student demand is sufficient, through third grade and makes it optional through fifth grade. The groups bringing the lawsuit want bilingual education extended through the 12th grade.

Justice warned on Wednesday that unless state officials submit a proposal immediately, “the court will be compelled to enter a final judgment without the benefit of their plan.”

The Legislature, Justice charged, “has squandered numerous opportunities to rectify the deficiencies of the state’s educational program for Mexican-American children.”

In New Orleans, meanwhile, an assistant state attorney general said Texas no longer admits historical discrimination against Mexican-Americans, and he withdrew the state from a school desegregation case.

“I am about to make the most remarkable statement I have ever made,” David H. Young told a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He said the state no longer supports “stipulations” made last year in U.S. District Court at Tyler, admitting to past racial discrimination.

Young didn’t explain why the state was shifting its position.

The admission of past discrimination was made at a 1979 hearing in the bilingual education case, but Justice decided it also applied to another case he was handling, a school-desegregation case in the 3,100-student Gregory-Portland Independent School District.

The school district has appealed a busing order imposed by the judge, contending the district’s ratio of Mexican-Americans reflected community percentages, not discrimination.

Texas took the side of the U.S. Justice Department in seeking to integrate the district’s schools, but Young’s repudiation of earlier stipulations had the effect of removing Texas from the case.

It was not known if Young’s statement would affect the bilingual case. There was no indication when the circuit court will rule.

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