The entry of Ron Unz into the effort to reform bilingual education in Massachusetts is a cause for celebrating. This California entrepreneur reformed the education systems of two states, California and Arizona, through ballot question campaigns he financed.

Efforts to legislate reform here – as elsewhere – have gone nowhere because politicians are reluctant to oppose something so fiercely defended by Hispanic activists (though not by most Hispanic parents). The chief local reformer, state Sen. Guy Glodis (D-Worcester), has not given up hope for this session, but his office said he will support Unz’s effort to put the matter before the voters in 2002, if the Legislature does not act.

Unz, whose previous campaigns won approval by more than three-fifths margins, is not some lone carpetbagger. Professor Christine Rossell of Boston University, author of a devastating critique of bilingual education, and other local experts have already signed on to his campaign.

Unz wants to put non-English speaking children in one-year “immersion” classes taught entirely in English, though with native-language speakers available to help in the rough spots. In California communities where the system is already in place, test scores are rising.

Voters who are asked to sign a petition should understand that it is not the “anti-immigrant, anti-child” measure that opponents claim.

The “transitional” native-language classes used in Massachusetts have been holding children back for too many years. It is high time to scrap them and move away from a system that has consigned too many to second-class citizenship.

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