The Federal Government’s tentative regulations on bilingual education, already being criticized by those who accuse Washington of overstepping its authority, were praised in New York yesterday by a steady stream of supporters who urged that the rules be made even stronger than proposed.
Addressing a panel of officials from the United States Department of Education at hearings at New York University, educators and spokesmen for civil rights groups asked that alleged loopholes in the regulations be closed to assure that every student who needs bilingual education would be included in the programs.
”The options, the waivers and the modifications that fill these regulations are inconsistent with an enforcement policy,” said Lita Taracido, head of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund Inc., based in New York.
The proposed regulations were published in the Federal Register on Aug. 5. Hearings on them are scheduled in six cities this week and next week. Then final rules will be drafted.
Department of Education officials had expected attacks from those who thought the Federal Government ought to let local school districts determine the specifics of bilingual programs, but the surprise yesterday was the vehemence with which proponents of bilingual education called for stronger language in the proposals.
The proponents’ chief objections to the proposed rules included these: – Bilingual classes would not be required unless there were at least 25 eligible students of the same language background in two consecutive grades in a school, and identification of eligible students would be required only below the ninth-grade.
– The proposed program allegedly fails to involve parents in the programs and to make sure they understand their children’s rights to participate in them.
– The test scores are said to be too high for entrance into the program and too low for exit. – Bilingual education would not be required for youngsters who are comparably limited in both English and their native language. Among the more than 200 people at the all-day session were 44 parents from Massachusetts, many of them Portuguese-speaking, who came on a bus provided by the Harvard Center for Law and Education. ”We came because they want to change the law and make it more difficult for our children to get bilingual education,” said Claudinor Salomao of Hudson, Mass., who recently emigrated from Portugal.
Alan Rom of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, a lawyer who accompanied the group, said that Massachusetts law now mandated bilingual education if there were 20 students of the same language background in the entire school system. New York State’s law is also stricter in some respects than the proposed regulations. Robert R. Spillane, a deputy commissioner in the State Education Department, said that the Federal rules would restrict bilingual education to half a day for any student, for instance.
One of the few speakers at yesterday’s hearings who was critical of the Department of Education’s underlying philosophy of bilingual education was Sandra Feldman, vice president of the American Federation of Teachers, who said there was no evidence that bilingual instruction was better than other methods of helping other-language children.
The hearings will continue today at 550 First Avenue.