The History of Bilingual Education in America

Events

First law to allow Bilingual Education

1839

Ohio passes the first law to officially allow Bilingual Education.
The law permitted German-English instruction upon the request of the parent.

French-English Instruction

1847

Louisiana passes a law allowing French-English instruction.

Repress Native American Languages

1864

Congress passes a law that prohibits Native Americans from being taught in their own languages

Spanish in Public Elementary

1870

New Mexico passes a law recognizing and permitting Spanish instruction in public elementary schools

Native American "English Only" Schools

1879

Federal policy begins separating many Native American students from their families. Native American students are sent to boarding schools and punished when caught speaking in their native language.

"English Only" content

1889

Wisconsin & Illinois- Children ages eight to fourteen in both public and private schools must be instructed in English in the "three 'R's" (reading, writing, and arithmetic) and American History.

Nationality Act

1906

Congress' first federal language law requiring that all immigrants seeking naturalization speak English.

34 states have "English Only" instruction

1920

Native American Languages Allowed

1934

The Bureau of Indian Affairs rescinds federal policy of repressing the use of Native American languages. Continues illegally however into the 1940s and 1950s

Elementary and Secondary Education Act

1965

The act outlined and provided funds for educational programs that were considered essential for children and public education. Bilingual Education was one such program that received funding

Bilingual Education Act

1968

The act mandated that schools provide Bilingual Education programs.
The act was passed during an era of growing immigration and an energized Civil Rights movement.
The act provided federal funding to encourage local school districts to try approaches incorporating native-language instruction. This was the first time U.S. Congress had endorsed funding for Bilingual Education.
Most states followed the lead of the federal government, enacting Bilingual Education Laws of their own or at least decriminalizing the use of other language in the classroom (Cohen, 29-31).
In its first year, the act provided funding for 76 Bilingual Education programs and served students who spoke 14 different languages.

Proposition 187

1994

Proposition 187 is introduced to deny illegal immigrants (or those suspected of being so) health care, social services, and public education.
In November of 1994, the issue was brought to the voters, where it received 59% of the votes in its favor, and became a law.
Its constitutionality was immediately challenged and three days after Election Day, a temporary restraining was placed on the new law.
In March of 1998, U.S. District Court confirmed that the federal government has exclusive authority of immigration policies and thus, the law was unconstitutional. This court ruling effectively killed the law.

Proposition 227

1998

All California students must be taught in English as rapidly as possible.
The proposition places non-English speaking students in a short-term English immersion program. Students generally do not spend more than one year in the program, however, one year after the English-only program was implemented, and only 7% of students who had participated in the program were considered fluent in the English language.

The proposition requires that all public education must be conducted in English and severely restricts the use of their native language for the instruction of English learners.

No Child Left Behind Act

2001

Each state must measure every public school student's progress in reading and math from the third grade through the eighth grade. Further progress must be measured at least once between the tenth and twelfth grades.
By the 2007-2008 school year, assessments (or testing) in science will be underway.

The act requires that all teachers teaching in Bilingual Education programs be fluent in English and any other language used in the classroom.

The act gives parents the choice to enroll their children in a Bilingual Education program, but puts a three year "time-limit" on Bilingual programs. After a student has been in school for three consecutive years, English-only instruction must commence, regardless of the student's English speaking ability.

Proposition 58

November 8, 2016

California schools are no longer required to teach English learners in English-only programs. Ok to use bilingual programs to teach English based on the needs of students. School districts have to get feedback from parents about how English learners should be taught. Schools might need to develop new programs or train teachers, but these costs are likely be paid for within current budgets.