E.D., in Shift, To Fund 'Developmental' Bilingual Programs

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Washington--The Education Department will devote $3 million in fiscal 1990 bilingual-education aid to so-called "developmental" programs--a type of program the Reagan Administration had refused to fund.

The decision "shows a change in outlook, if not a policy change," according to James J. Lyons, executive director of the National Association for Bilingual Education.

Developmental programs generally involve teaching equal numbers of English-speaking and limited-English-proficient students in both English and the LEP students' native language. The goal is for both groups to learn a new language.

Reagan Administration officials said they supported the concept, but felt that the limited funds available for bilingual education should serve only LEP children. (See Education Week, Nov. 23, 1988.)

"I've never heard that since I've been in the department," Rita Esquivel, director of the office of bilingual education and minority-language affairs since July, said in an interview last week.

The change may be a hint that bilingual-education advocates were right in predicting an end to warfare between their community and the department because of the appointment of Ms. Esquivel, a career educator and a member of NABE. (See Education Week, May 24, 1989.)

In the report accompanying the 1990 education-appropriations bill, the Congress said it wanted to devote $5 million to developmental programs.

Ms. Esquivel confirmed last week that her agency had originally planned to spend only $750,000 on such programs, but decided to increase the amount under pressure from the Hispanic community and Capitol Hill.

Bilingual-education law allows, but does not require, the department to fund developmental programs. It spent $250,000 on them in fiscal 1989, but only to continue two projects originally funded in 1985--the only such programs that have ever received federal grants.

Bilingual-education advocates and some lawmakers criticized the department last year for refusing to fund developmental projects. They talked about earmarking funds for them in the 1990 appropriations bill. The earmark was included, but as "report language," which many in the executive branch do not consider legally binding.

Sources on Capitol Hill and in the bilingual community said department conservatives tried to "pull a fast one" on Ms. Esquivel, a supporter of developmental programs, in convincing her that $750,000 would be a generous request.

'I Was Doing Tap Dances'

But the OBEMLA director said the original request was her idea.

"We had $250,000. I thought that if we double it, that's going to be good, and if we triple it, that's going to be super," she said. "When the Administration said 'yes' with no hesitation, I was doing little tap dances."

"When Congress said, 'We think you ought to put in more,' I thought that was fantastic," Ms. Esquivel continued. "To tell you the truth, I was pleasantly surprised."

She confirmed that Congressional pressure was brought to bear on the Administration. Aides and lobbyists said the charge was led by Representative Edward R. Roybal, Democrat of California, and Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona.

Mr. Lyons of nabe said, "I'm heartened by the department's decision to follow the recommendations of Congress, or at least 60 percent of those recommendations."

Rodolfo Chavez, a professor at Arizona State University who is the president of NABE, was more laudatory.

"I applaud these efforts," he said. "Our children must gain proficiency [in key foreign languages] in order to make us stronger and more competitive."

Ms. Esquivel expressed similar sentiments, and said the program, to be announced soon in the Federal Register, would be targeted, though not limited, to projects involving "major languages that serve our country economically."

Vol. 09, Issue 18

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