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Bilingual Education: A Tale of Two States

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Bordering the Future

Although California and Texas are similar in the large population of Limited English Proficiency (LEP) students, there are many differences in how the two states approach bilingual education.

California voters in June 1998 approved a proposition that will limit bilingual services to one year of English "immersion." LEP students of different ages will be educated in the same classroom, regardless of their grade level, for the first year they enter public school, and placed in the appropriate grade thereafter. The proposition will provide about $36 a year per LEP student for tutoring that will continue after the year of immersion.

California's compensatory education program--which, at more than $300 million, comprises about 2 percent of the state's total education budget--provides for bilingual education plus a variety of other services. In fact, bilingual education is not a primary recipient of California's compensatory education funds.

Texas provides $1 billion in funding for compensatory education, which can be used for bilingual services. This amount makes up about 5 percent of the total education budget.

Texas also provides about $100 million for bilingual services to LEP students, spurred by a 1981 U.S. District Court decision. While the court order was appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, Texas implemented its bilingual program.

California bilingual education programs have never been adequately supported. Texas allows local school districts a great degree of latitude in deciding which programs best suit the needs of their students. The state's accountability system, which will soon incorporate results of tests administered in Spanish, has shed light on improvement in educational performance.

In Texas, student entry into bilingual education requires parental consent. Decisions regarding the child's education and exit from the bilingual program are made by the child's Language Proficiency Assessment Committee, composed of educators, counselors, and the student's parents.

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Bordering the Future