Anti-Bilingual Initiative Is Very Bad For Parental Choice
by Dr. Michael O. Peralta
Jan. 29, 1999

[Letter to Schools Newspaper Editor]

To: Mary Bustamante, Schools Editor
From: Mike Peralta

In your Jan 25, 1999 you described some of the elements of the Unz Arizona initiative to dismantle bilingual education.

The initiative, by law and UNDER THREAT OF LAWSUIT, would effectively dismantle almost all of the bilingual programs in Arizona. With time, no new college students would pursue certification in bilingual education and hence almost all bilingual programs would cease to exist for lack of qualified teachers. (Very few college students will pursue a career with a limited future as the Unz initiative will cause for bilingual education.)

Also, even the English Immersion program, to have any success, would require good bilingual educators. But with Unz' initiative we would no longer have very many good bilingual educators. Needless to say the education for the children would quickly degrade to the pre-bilingual education days when there was very poor educational results and a 60% drop out rate for Hispanics.

Because the bilingual programs and teachers to man them will no longer exist, or be drastically diminished, the provision that parents could get waivers so they could send their children to bilingual programs would do them no good -- since they will NOT have a bilingual program or qualified bilingual educators to which to send their children.

Regrading the Anti-Bilingual (Unz) provision: (Verbatim quote from Anti-Bilingual Initiative)

"Parents could submit a written waiver to keep their children in bilingual programs. Schools where 20 or more students in the same grade request a waiver would be required to offer a bilingual class."

This puts a very high threshold and restricts bilingual ed even when a MAJORITY of parents want bilingual ed for their children. (There are usually about 30 students in a typical class. So that even a MAJORITY of 16 to 19 PARENTS would not be enough to provide bilingual ed to those parents who desire it for their children.)

In addition, it is very typical in many schools that most students in a class already speak English and so the 10 or so students who do not yet speak English are overruled by the English speaking majority who don't need bilingual education. Don't you think it is very oppressive for those who don't need it to suppress the rights and choices for those who do need bilingual education?

The Unz initiative is extremely oppressive to the rights and choice of parents to send their children to the best system that THEY BELIEVE IN. Maybe Unz and his supporters don't believe in bilingual education but MANY PARENTS (thousand upon thousands) DO BELIEVE IN IT AS THE BEST METHOD THEIR CHILDREN.

As far as PARENT CHOICE the current system is very good since a parent can readily select either English Immersion, or ESL, or Bilingual Education for their children according to what THEY BELIEVE IS BEST FOR THEIR CHILDREN.

With the Unz initiative there will (effectively) be only English Immersion -- WHETHER THE PARENTS LIKE IT OR NOT. And English Immersion was the system from 1910-1969 in Arizona that produced a 60% drop out rate for Hispanics [per Tucson Unified School District, Bilingual Education Dept. Leonard Basurto & Sal Galbaldon].

Even though bilingual education can be improved (as can Math & Science Classes, etc.) it is substantially and much better than the 60 years of the failure-ridden English Immersion program in the first 2/3 of this century. Even though it is a cliche the saying applies:

"Those who forget history, are destined to repeat it."

Do we really want a very high drop out rate for our Hispanic children?

Even though intentions may be good and they may be sincere, a lack of wisdom or clear logical thinking can be just as harmful to our children as those with a malevolent intent.

- Mike Peralta