Supporters of bilingual education came out in droves last night to tell Schools Chancellor Harold Levy to pump more money into it.

More than 140 speakers, most of them supporters of bilingual education, appeared before the Board of Education at its only public hearing on the controversial plan to revamp the bilingual and English-as-a-second-language programs.

The seven-member board is expected to vote next month on a $75 million overhaul proposed by Levy that would end automatic placement of students who do not speak English well in bilingual classes, a key complaint of parents.

The plan calls for parents to be given a choice between bilingual instruction, ESL classes and a new, third option offering more-intensive ESL classes.

“It’s going to sound like he’s giving parents a choice they don’t have,” Luis Reyes, a Brooklyn College professor and a supporter of bilingual education, said of Levy’s plan.

Reyes said the plan would create only 10 pilot programs throughout the city, severely limiting the number of students who could participate.

“It’s not legally fair to offer to one [student] what you don’t offer to all,” said Reyes, who spoke at last night’s standing-room-only hearing at the school board’s Brooklyn headquarters.

Levy’s plan would increase the current $169 million budget for bilingual and ESL programs by 44%, adding at least 4,600 new teachers to the payroll over the next five years.

But bilingual advocates argue the funding should be doubled.

“It’s like spreading butter very thinly,” Reyes said.

The Levy plan would also set a three-year limit on bilingual and ESL instruction, which opponents object to. Bilingual instruction is taught in the student’s native language, while ESL instruction is conducted mostly in English.

Another major objection voiced last night to Levy’s plan was ending the automatic assignment of students to bilingual programs, which was part of a 1974 court order.

“The Board of Education is abdicating its obligation” to make informed decisions on behalf of the parents, said Florence Pu-Folkes, president of the New York State Association for Bilingual Education.

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