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Bilingual Battle

John R. Silber

John R. Silber, the outspoken former chairman of the Massachusetts state board of education, is grabbing headlines again.

Mr. Silber, the chancellor of Boston University, testified before a legislative panel on March 13 that bilingual education has been an "utter failure."

Ron K. Unz, the California businessman who is leading a campaign to put an anti- bilingual-education measure on the Massachusetts ballot in November, embraced the denunciation as proof that support for his initiative is gathering steam.

But opponents of the measure said other testimony at the hearing assured them that they also have heavyweights on their side, such as Sen. Robert Antonioni and Rep. Peter Larkin, Democrats who co-chair the joint committee on education.

Charles Glick, a consultant to Educational Choices for Massachusetts, a group fighting the Unz initiative, afterward tallied up in an interview some of the people he considered to be on each side.

People backing the Unz campaign, he said, include Mr. Silber and Lincoln Tamayo, a former Massachusetts high school principal; Boston University researcher Christine H. Rossell; and Rosalie P. Porter, an author and former bilingual education administrator. He also chalked up two state legislators as supportive of the Unz initiative, but then asserted: "We have everybody else."

He said that acting Gov. Jane M. Swift, a Republican, and most state lawmakers want the debate about bilingual education to be settled by the legislature rather than by voters at the ballot box.

Mr. Silber said he's been opposed to bilingual education for 20 years now, despite initially favoring it.

"My position changed as I saw that the legislation was misused," he said in an interview.

—Mary Ann Zehr

Vol. 21, Issue 28, Page 19

Published in Print: March 27, 2002, as State Journal

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