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New Bilingual Reauthorization Calls for More Funding, Data

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Washington--A bilingual-education reauthorization bill that differs ''substantially" from the legislation supported by the Reagan Administration was introduced in the House last week.

Sponsored by Representative Dale E. Kildee, Democrat of Michigan, and Resident Commissioner Baltasar Corrada, Democrat of Puerto Rico, HR 5231, the "acadmic equity and excellence through bilingual education act of 1984," would reauthorize and expand bilingual-education programs under Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.

The amount of money that would be authorized for the programs and the methods of bilingual education that would be funded are the major differences between Representative Kildee and Commissioner Corrada's bill and HR 2682, the measure supported by the Reagan Administration, according to Education Department officials and advocates of the new proposal.

'Necessary' Sums

The Kildee-Corrada measure would significantly increase the level of funding for Title VII, which received $137.8 million in fiscal 1983. The bill would reauthorize bilingual-education programs through fiscal 1989, providing $400 million for 1985, $450 million for 1986, $500 million for 1987, and "such sums as may be necessary" in 1988 and 1989.

The proposal for expanded funding is "commensurate with the growth of the population of children who require bilingual education," Representative Kildee wrote in a memo early this month asking other members of Congress to support his bill.

The Administration's bill would reauthorize the programs through 1985 at $95 million. Funding for bilingual programs peaked at $171.7 million in fiscal 1980, having grown from $7.5 million in 1969. Administration budget requests since 1980 have sought to cut back the program to the currently proposed level.

The Administration has "problems" with the new proposal because of its high cost, said Gary L. Bauer, deputy undersecretary of education for planning, budget, and evaluation. He added that "nobody needs to be reminded of the federal deficit."

The Kildee-Corrada proposal also requires that 75 percent of federal funding for bilingual-education programs be reserved for programs of ''transitional bilingual education," the method that provides structured English-language instruction in addition to instruction in a child's native language.

The Administration's bill would not require school districts to teach children in their native language in order to qualify for bilingual-education funds, as currently required under Title VII, and would allow "flexibility for school districts" to decide which programs for limited-English-proficient students best fit the needs of the school and its children, Mr. Bauer said.

The new bill's mandating of "a specific teaching method" is another major concern of the Administration, Mr. Bauer said.

Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act now requires that to be eligible for federal bilingual-education funds, school districts must provide instruction to children in their native language. Over the past several years, however, the Reagan Administration has indicated its support for allowing more instructional methods under the federal program. In particular, Administration officials have shown an interest in so-called "immersion" methods, which rely more on instruction in English. (See Education Week, Feb. 8, 1984.)

Testifying on behalf of the Administration's proposed bilingual-education bill last summer, Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell told members of the House Subcommittee on Elementary, Secondary, and Vocational Education that HR 2682 "would bring the program into agreement with current research which indicates that no one approach is superior for meeting the special needs of limited-English-proficient students in all circumstances."

Despite its provision requiring the use of the transitional bilingual method, Gary Timmons, a legislative aide to Representative Kildee, argued that the Kildee-Corrada measure does not "mandate" anything.

"Schools can do whatever they want," he said, "but if they write a grant proposal for federal [bilingual education] money, it better say transitional bilingual education."

Mr. Timmons said Representative Kildee is backing the transitional-bilingual-education method (tbe) because it works. "It's been the real workhorse of the federal program and it's done a good job," he said.

Mr. Timmons also said that the legislation was designed to be "in focus" with the current requirements of Title VII.

Other changes proposed by the Kildee-Corrada measure include:

Recognition of tbe programs that "have an established record of providing effective, academically excellent instruction and serve as exemplary models."

A requirement that the federal government offer programs to help limited-English-proficient parents and out-of-school family members to4achieve competence in English.

Funding for developmental bilingual education ("a new term coined by people who developed the bill," Mr. Timmons said), a program of structured English-language instruction and instruction in a second language to a class of both limited-English-proficient students and students whose native language is English. The goal of the program is to have all of the children learn a second language.

Increased research and reporting on the effectiveness of programs.

Competing Legislation

In a hearing held last week by the House education subcommittee, Mr. Bauer urged House leaders to adopt the Administration's bill rather than simply reathorize Title VII in the omnibus reauthorization bill for federal education programs currently under consideration.

According to Mr. Timmons, however, Representative Kildee and Representative Carl D. Perkins, the Kentucky Democrat who chairs the subcommittee and is the sponsor of the omnibus bill, have "a gentleman's agreement" to incorporate the Kildee-Corrada proposal into the omnibus legislation.

Groups advocating bilingual education--the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the National Puerto Rican Coalition, and the National Congress of American Indians, among others--are expected to back the Kildee-Corrada proposal, said James J. Lyons, legislative counsel for the National Association for Bilingual Education. Mr. Lyons will present the proposal for approval at the nabe annual conference next week.

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