Federal Subsidies Ensnare Hispanic Kids

School districts receive federal subsidies for bilingual education programs. That can give them a financial incentive to needlessly put Hispanic kids who already know a lot of English into Spanish language (ESL) instruction in order to reap more federal funds, harming those kids’ educations.

In Sunday’s Washington Post, Joan Snyder describes how bilingual education bureaucrats and teachers tried to keep her nephews and nieces in ESL classes even when they already spoke English competently. While in ESL classes, the kids received watered-down instruction and coursework, from teachers who had low expectations of them. The goal of mainstreaming the students by teaching them English as quickly as possible disappeared from the Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia, school districts long ago.

I used to work as an attorney in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR). OCR enforces the federal government’s controversial bilingual education regulations, under which a school system can be forced to translate innumerable school documents for the benefit of a single student who speaks an obscure foreign language (like Hmong, a Laotian language spoken by a hill people whose language did not even exist in written form until recently). These OCR regulations have no basis in the language of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act (OCR’s purported authority for them), nor are they consistent with most court decisions interpreting Title VI. Nor have many of them been duly promulgated after notice-and-comment, or encodified in the Code of Federal Regulations.