No on Question 2
Daily Hampshire Gazette. Oct. 30, 2002
Wednesday, October 30, 2002 -- Question 2 on the November ballot asks voters to
decide between two competing ways of teaching Massachusetts school children
whose native language is not English.
Supporters of the question think the immersion method, in which students speak
only English in the classroom, is better and faster at making students
proficient in English. Opponents think a bilingual approach takes individual
differences into account and, by easing students into their new language, makes
it easier for them to learn.
We think students should learn English as quickly as possible, but the method
proposed by Question 2 is extreme and its effectiveness is disputed.
Massachusetts has had a bilingual law for over 30 years. A revamped law was
passed by the Legislature and signed by acting Gov. Jane Swift in August. The
new law lets school districts choose the methods - including immersion - they
consider best suited to their students' needs. If passed, Question 2 would
replace this version of the bilingual law before its effectiveness has been
The new law was a response to MCAS results that showed bilingual students
falling behind in English as well as subjects taught in their native language.
Some took this as evidence that the state was failing in its duty to provide
students with the best education possible. The changes also raised standards for
bilingual education teachers, promoted parental participation and made schools
accountable for their performance.
The Legislature bears some responsibility for the issue making it to the ballot.
If the Legislature had acted in a timely way to change the original law,
proponents of the immersion method might not have resorted to trying to force
change through balloting.
Because school districts can now choose the teaching method they believe does
the best job, Question 2 is redundant and exclusionary. It asks voters to end
the schools' choice and declare that only one method will be used. We feel
parents who favor a particular method and want a change would do better to take
their concerns to their local schools.
One aspect of the ballot proposal is especially troubling. It calls for
punishing teachers and administrators who "willfully and repeatedly" disobey the
English-only law. They could be sued, fired or banned from teaching for five
years if parents felt their child's ability to learn English was hurt by using
the child's native language. The intent of this part of the initiative is to
make sure teachers toe the line and don't circumvent the law. We feel
threatening school officials with loss of their livelihood goes too far and is
We believe mandating teaching methods by popular vote is wrong. In our opinion a
"no" vote on Question 2 is in the best interest of the children.