Debate – For Bilingual Education


To begin with, I will start with the definition of bilingual education, which is: non-English speaking students being taught subjects in their native-language by bilingual instructors usually in self contained classrooms. Back in the 1960’s, there was a large influx of immigrants when the United States started permitting more Hispanics, Asians, and Africans into the country. Because of this immigrant population boom, in 1968, Congress passed, and President Lyndon B. Johnson signed, Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which encouraged local schools to establish bilingual programs. In 1974, Title VII was revised to add federal funding for teacher training, development of programs, and materials.

There are several approaches for teaching bilingual education but the two most popular are transitional and two-way. Transitional bilingual education is the most common method used in schools today and teaches students non-language subjects like science and math in their native language for a limited period while the student learns English, and reading is taught in both languages. Once students reach the desired skill level in English, they are moved into mainstream classes. Experts agree that students who are proficient readers in their native language do much better when learning a new language and that is the theory behind Transitional bilingual education. Two-way bilingual education, on the other hand, mixes non-native English-speaking students with roughly an equal number of native speakers in the same classroom where, generally, students are taught in one language in the morning and another in the afternoon. In this situation, both native English speakers and non-English speakers become bilingual and test scores show that these students do better overall in school.

In this debate we will be addressing bilingual education as it specifically applies to California schools. Since the 1970’s, because of an abundance of low paying farm worker jobs available in California’s agricultural industry, immigrants from Mexico and Cuba have been steadily moving to California – legally and illegally. In 1986, The Immigration Reform and Control Act made it possible for approximately 1.5 million long-term illegal immigrants in California to regularize their status, and with this new sense of security, they sought to move their families to California without negative legal repercussions. In the 1980’s alone, the state’s population of limited English proficient students grew by 150% and grew another 40 percent from 1990 – 1995. California now enrolls more than 45% of the nation’s immigrant student population and has the huge responsibility for teaching these students English.

The main problem with bilingual education in California is the lack of federal funding needed to finance successful programs. Unfortunately, funding is being cut year after year by conservative lawmakers who do not support bilingual education and who believe that it is the state’s responsibility to fund these programs. Irma Guadarrama, a professor of bilingual education at the University of Texas at Houston said that in order for bilingual education to be successful, qualified teachers and sufficient materials are absolutely required. Of course these things are impossible to obtain without funding, of which California is already spent. This is obvious when you note that in California, schools are only receiving $42 per student for bilingual education programs in comparison to $361 per student in New York and $1,581 per student in Florida. In 1992, Congress chose to withhold $812 million dollars in previously approved federal funding to help heavily impacted states such as California and each year more and more funds are cut instead of increased to meet the growing need for bilingual education. Federal funding is absolutely necessary, especially for schools in California with an abundance of immigrant students, so that they are able to hire more bilingual teachers, build and restore schools and help support additional immigrant programs. Without this financial assistance, there will likely be a significant failure at helping these young immigrants to become a viable part of American society. Instead they will become a drain on other resources such as Welfare, Unemployment and the Criminal Justice System.


English 101



Worsnap, Richard L. Bilingual Education. CQ Press. 1993. 18 Oct 2002. <>. <http://library.cqpress/cqresearcher/>.

Donegan, Craig. Debate Over Bilingualism. CQ press. 1996. 18 Oct 2002. <http://www.msjc.

edu/mvclibrary/>. <http://library.cqpress/cqresearcher/>.

Rossell, Christine. “Is Bilingual Education an Effective Educational Tool?”. (p.18-28). The Failure of Bilingual Education. Amselle, Jorge, Ed. Center