Few California Bilingual Teachers Are Hispanic

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A new study examining the widely-accepted assumption that bilingual-education programs have been a major source of jobs for Hispanics has found that, in California at least, that has not been the case.

"We wanted to find out what happens at the local level and to learn the degree to which the program has influenced the employment of Hispanic teachers," said Henry Levin, director of the Institute for Research on Educational Finance and Governance at Stanford University, which conducted the study.

"We wanted to know, 'Is the bilingual program a jobs program for a particular constituency? Does the government buy off a group by a particular program?"' Mr. Levin said.

The study examines hiring practices of Hispanics in the California public schools since the early 1970's, when the bilingual-education movement gained momentum. It was after the U.S. Supreme Court's 1974 Lau v. Nichols decision that federal funding for bilingual-education programs rose steadily from $45 million to a national total in 1980 of nearly $200 million, according to the report. California receives about 25 percent of those funds.

The Lau decision held that schools must provide programs to meet the needs of non-English-speaking children, and school districts responded with a variety of programs.

However, the Stanford study found that although more than one-third of all California students are Hispanic, only one in every 20 teachers is Hispanic (according to 1980 figures). Hispanics have been hired faster than blacks or whites since 1974, the study found, but the numbers are small (about 1,000 new teachers in 1980), and Hispanics still represented only 5.9 percent of the state's 147,000 teachers that year.

"Here you have what was supposed to be a powerful intervention [in the hiring system], and yet today you find only one in 20 teachers is Hispanic," said Mr. Levin. "It's not had a powerful effect on Hispanic employment."

The study also found that despite the extreme shortage of certified bilingual teachers in California, 61 percent of the Hispanic teachers are not in bilingual education at all, but teach in other fields.

One reason for this is that a substantial number of the new jobs generated by the bilingual-education program have gone to white teachers, according to the study. These were teachers already in the school system who got "first shot" at the new jobs if they were willing to retrain, said Raoul Teilhet, president of the California Federation of Teachers.

But Mr. Teilhet also noted that another factor was the lack of qualified or interested Hispanic job candidates. Progress in motivating young Hispanics to train to be teachers is "painfully slow," he said.

"It's not a problem of discrimination. It's a problem of supply. If there were more of them, they would be hired," he added.

A third reason is that, contrary to the public's assumption, many California Hispanics do not speak fluent Spanish and cannot automatically qualify as bilingual teachers, said Mr. Levin.

"We expected to find a much larger proportion of Hispanic teachers covered by bilingual funding," said Mr. Levin.

"I would have expected 80 percent, not 39 percent," he added.

The Stanford study, called "Bilingualism and Hispanic Employment: School Reform or Social Control?" was funded by the National Institute of Education in 1981. Researched and written by Craig Richards, who is now an assistant professor in the school of education at Rutgers University, it is one of a series of studies being conducted by the Stanford center that will attempt to analyze the local effects of federal categorical grants, Mr. Levin said.

Other points made in the report include:

The gains in the number of Hispanics employed by the public schools is "modest" compared with their gains in state civil-service employment or in higher-level white-collar jobs.

The bilingual-education program has contributed to the increased segregation of the Hispanic staff in the public schools. In the elementary schools, a "pattern of racial assignments" exists; "Hispanic teachers with bilingual certificates are almost three times more likely to work in the most segregated schools and are three times less likely to work in schools with less than 30 percent Hispanics than are Anglo teachers with bilingual certificates," the study notes.

Vol. 02, Issue 41

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