Justice Orders Phased Implementation of Bilingual Education Program

TYLER, Texas—A federal judge refused on Friday to allow Texas officials more time to come up with a bilingual education program and ordered the state to implement a court-drafted plan next fall.

The order by Judge William Wayne Justice compels public school districts in Texas to extend bilingual education from kindergarten through fifth grade by the start of the 1981-82 school year and through the 12th grade in phases over the next seven years.

Justice had been asked by Texas Attorney General Mark White to reconsider his refusal to allow the Legislature to deal with the problem of bilingual education. State officials wanted to wait until after the legislative session ends in June before proposing a plan of their own.

State officials were invited to submit a plan of their own but missed the March 9 deadline set by Justice.

Bilingual instruction currently is offered only in kindergarten through third grade in Texas public schools.

Public school districts have until Aug. 1 to submit a list of their certified bilingual education teachers through the fifth grade. They must submit recruiting and training plans where needed to overcome bilingual teacher shortages.

School districts must also inform the court of the steps they plan to take to implement next year’s bilingual programs through fifth grade, Justice said in his order.

The districts were ordered to form “Language Proficiency Assessment” committees composed of school principals, bilingual instructors, instruction specialists and classroom teachers by Aug. 15.

Justice also ordered the districts to report annually to the Texas Education Agency on their progress in implementing the bilingual program.

The ruling stems from a 1970 lawsuit filed against Texas officials by the Justice Department. Although that litigation focused almost entirely on educational opportunities afforded black students in the Texas public schools, Mexican-American groups successfully intervened in 1975 to show that constitutionally-guaranteed educational opportunities were being denied students of Hispanic origin, in part because of language barriers they faced in the classroom.

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