Letter to the Editor of Education Week
To say that a recent General Accounting Office report “vindicates” the federal Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights from accusations that it aggressively pushes bilingual education programs on school districts is not merely inaccurate, it is irresponsible (“OCR Seen as Unbiased,” March 7, 2001).
The February 2001 report concludes that in nearly 1 in 5 cases examined, OCR abandoned its official neutrality and attempted to influence school districts in favor of bilingual education. For districts in OCR’s Region 11, headquartered in San Francisco, the number was an astonishing 35 percent. What’s worse, that important region is home to 41 percent of the nation’s English learners.
These problematic findings fly in the face of OCR Director Norma Cantu’s 1999 testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives, in which she stated that her agency “does not enforce any . . . . policy that encourages the use of bilingual education programs as opposed to other educational approaches to meet the needs of LEP students.”
As policymakers at every level throughout the nation continue to move towards more effective English immersion programs, this new GAO report raises critical questions about the role of the federal Department of Education in impeding bilingual education reform. OCR must be called to account for its actions.
Don Soifer is Executive Vice President of the Lexington Institute.
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