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Legislation Related to Bilingual Education

This page covers the most influential legislation regarding bilingual education in the United States.

  • 1906: The Nationality Act (Texas): “Required immigrants to speak English in order to begin the process of becoming naturalized, legitimized the use of language as a mode of exclusion and discrimination.” 40


  • Meyer v. Nebraska (1923) and Farrington v. Tokushige (1927): Supreme Court invalidated prohibitions against foreign language instruction in private schools.
    • Meyer v. Nebraska: Forbidding the teaching in school of any language other than English until the pupil has passed the eight grade violates the 14th Amendment that guarantees liberty. 28
    • Farrington v. Tokushige: Argued against Acts of the Legislature of Hawaii. 29


  • Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1925): Court invalidated an Oregon Law that had compelled attendance at public schools. Therefore, one can attend private schools.
    • Oregon Compulsory Education Act is unreasonable. 30


  • Mo Hock Ke Lok Po v. Stainback (1944): Parents have the right to have their children taught in a foreign language. 31


  • 1954: Brown v. Board of Education: desegregation of public schools.
    • 1st major educational policy


  • Civil Rights Act of 1964: was the chief drive for bilingual education in the United States .
    • Granted financial assistance to the public.


  • Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965: provided federal aid for public schools.


  • Mid 1960's: Language legislation was given important support by President Johnson's “War on Poverty”.


  • 1968 Bilingual Education Act (BEA): Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.
    • President Lyndon B. Johnson
    • First bilingual-bicultural education program at the federal level.
    • Supplemental funding for school districts interested in establishing programs to meet the needs of people with limited English abilities.
    • Had to be from low-income families.
    • Provided funding for planning and developing bilingual education programs as well as training and operation for these programs. 32
    • Reasons for the BEA— 35

    1.) Growing size of non-English speaking population.

    2.) Education was becoming much more important in terms of employment and social mobility than it had even been.

    • “Demonstrated program designed to meet the educational needs of low-income, limited English-speaking children.” 36
    • Byproduct of the Civil Rights movement.
    • Congress wanted to satisfy the social, political, economic, and cultural environments of the U.S.. 41
    • Problems with the BEA:

      1.) Failure to provide a systematic means of determining success of programs. 42

      • Addressed by the Bilingual Education Act of 1974.


  • Bilingual Education Act of 1974:
    • Eliminated low-income criteria of the 1968 Act.
    • Provided a definition of Bilingual education.
    • Feedback and progress report must be given.


  • Lau v. Nichols (1974): Discrimination among students on account of race or national origin is barred. This case is in direct reference to Chinese-speaking people. 33


  • 1975: Office of Civil Rights published the Lau Remedies: guidelines that school districts should follow in order to comply with Lau decision.
    • Districts that refused to establish bilingual education programs were no longer eligible for federal funding.
    • Replaced by Lau Regulations at the end of the Carter Administration, which was withdrawn in 1981.


  • Serna v. Portales Municipal Schools (1974): Court provides an adequate relief program for Spanish-surnamed children. 34


  • 1981: Senator S.I. Hayakawa introduced a constitutional amendment that made English the sole official language of the United States.
    • 1983: Hayakawa founds "U.S. English", a legislative organization.
    • By 1998, twenty-five states had made English their official language. 37


  • Ron Unz's Proposition 227 (California): the “English for the Children” initiative. This proposition eliminates bilingual education.
    • Was passed in 1998, but is still debated today.
    • Peaked people's interest in bilingual education. 38
    • Passage was a significant event in California 's educational history. 39


  • 1999: State initiative in Utah promotes English-only laws in the state government.


  • 2000: Proposition 203 passed in Arizona: similar to proposition 227 in California.
    • Eliminates teaching students in any other language besides English.


  • 2001: The Colorado English for the Children Initiative: similar to proposition 227 in california and proposition 203 in Arizona.
    • Eliminated bilingual education in Colorado's public schools.


  • No Child Left Behind Act (2001): signed by President Bush is the successor of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
    • Much debate over how helpful this is to non-native English speakers.



  • Important Federal Councils that Deal with Bilingual Education:
    • NACBE: National Advisory Council for Bilingual Education.
    • OBE: Office of Bilingual Education: reevaluates bilingual education programs


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