Conflict & Justice

Restricting bilingual education

Roughly 67,000 Oregon children get help learning English, often in special classes where they get English coaching while they learn math or science. Many Oregon parents also have the option of sending their kids to bilingual classes. But if you ask this man, none of that is working. He has two kids in this middle school, and he also represents this anti-illegal immigration group. The group supports Ballot Measure 58, which is intended to get foreign language students into regular English language classes within two years through a fast track to English. But many researchers say the fast track approach of Measure 58 wouldn't guarantee that kids learn English. This sophomore high school student who came to the U.S. five years ago from Cuba, whose English is pretty good, is not comfortable with learning language support. One of the organizations opposing Measure 58 is this Institute For Language and Education Policy. According to their analysis of test scores in Arizona, California and Massachusetts, there's a persistent achievement gap for students of with different language backgrounds. The institute's president says Oregon's measure would be worse because it's by far the most extreme because it has no flexibility and is mostly about setting time limits. The author of Measure 58 says researchers like the last one are biased. He says Measure 58 would save money because minority language kids would spend less time in expensive language classes. But opponents say initiatives in other states have actually increased costs because students don't always learn at a high speed. But if history is any guide, voters may pay little attention to research. This professor says voters see Measure 58 as part of the anti-bilingual immigration issue and he says that's what supporters are counting on. Supporters of measures such as these used to believe they were guaranteed to win, until 2002 when voters in Colorado defeated a similar measure. And in states where these initiatives did end up passing, lawmakers and judges wound up intervening. Advocates on both sides of the issue in Oregon anticipate similar intervention if Measure 58 passes.

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