Lawmakers urge more emphasis on English in bilingual education

Material from the Associated Press was used to prepare this report.

Bilingual education is discriminatory and the state should not pay to help students who do not speak English become proficient in their native tongue, say Worcester and Holyoke lawmakers who have sponsored legislation to abolish the state’s bilingual education system.

“Many of those people are illiterate in their own language. They can’t read it, they can’t write it and they can’t spell it. They speak it,” Rep. William J. Glodis Jr. (D-Worcester) testified before the joint Committee on Education yesterday.

“But yet we take the time, make the effort and spend the money to make them literate in their own language,” Glodis said. “Which is all right, except it should be English because this is an English-speaking country. It’s a world that the English language revolves around.”

Advocates for bilingual education criticized Glodis’ bill, saying that students from families with little or no English need to learn to read and write in their own tongue in order to learn the rules of English.

Glodis described current bilingual education as discriminatory because it creates a “school within a school” and separates students from the mainstream. Glodis’ assistant said the lawmaker’s bill seeks to have students learn less in their own language and do more in English.

“We are proposing a different methodology,” said Vicky Saulnier, Glodis’ assistant. “We are trying to de-isolate these kids. We don’t have to segregate them.”

The bill’s co-sponsor, Rep. Evelyn Chesky (D-Holyoke), said before the committee: “For 20 years, the children of Holyoke have been segregated, experimented upon and made to feel different.” Holyoke and Worcester are among the state’s immigrant population centers.

The 20-year-old bilingual education law mandates that if a school has at least 20 students with the same native language, a transitional class must be offered.

Alan Jay Rom of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law yesterday urged lawmakers to delay action on the bill until a report is issued by the commission established to examine the state’s bilingual education system. The report is expected in December.

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