Hispanics to get 'English-only' schooling

June 5, 1998

AMERICAS

THE SCRAPPING of bilingual education in Californian schools could have an adverse effect on university and college access for the state's Spanish-speakers, according to its opponents, writes Patricia Leon.

Some two-thirds of voters in a state-wide ballot this week backed controversial Proposition 2, which will make English the only medium of instruction.

A quarter of pupils in state schools speak Spanish as a first language and opponents say the decision will condemn Hispanics, who already have the highest high-school drop-out rates in the United States, to an ethnic ghetto.

But proponents of the initiative, which has received strong support from Hispanic communities, said that 30 years of bilingual teaching in schools had left thousands of young people unable to function properly in English.

This was hampering their academic progress and employment prospects and creating a segregated community. Children with English as a second language will now have a year's immersion in English before entering mainstream classes.

It is estimated that Hispanics will make up almost two-thirds of the population of California by 2004 if the influx of immigrants from Latin America and birth rates continue at presesnt rates. Other states with large Hispanic populations include Florida and Texas.

The Clinton administration opposes the measure, as do the California Schools Board and the state's parent-teacher association, which argues that it restricts parental choice.

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