The situation was then addressed in Lau v. Nichols, which was instituted in 1974 as a remedy, but the decision did not specify a teaching method, and the approach could be "bilingual instruction, English as a second language (ESL) classes or some other approach" (Crawford, para. 1). This broad interpretation has caused a great deal of controversy over the years.
Lau was intended to give limited-English-proficient students (LEP) the opportunity to gain the proficiency they needed, but, unfortunately, according to Crawford, a symposium held twenty years after Lau indicates there has been little improvement in the effort to create equity for LEP students. Without one specific method of teaching LEP students, the effort becomes lost, with well-designed programs staffed by qualified teachers available to only a fraction of LEP students.
The term "bilingual education" has come to mean a "range of instructional programs for children whose native language is not English," while the best way to accommodate such children has been and continues to be an area of debate. As noted in a research project by the Westchester Institute in New York, the debate centers on the "role of native language in instruction-whether it should be used and for how long" (Westchester, para. 3). Supporters of native language instruction recommend aggressive development of the primary language prior to introduction of English, while proponents of all-English instruction feel that the English curriculum should be introduced at the very beginning of the student's school experience with minimal use of the native language (Westchester).
English Immersion in California Public Schools
If the use of bilingual education actually meant learning two languages equally well, it might be a feasible program for all students, not just LEP students. Unfortunately, the concept has not been incorporated in public schools, and according to Ron Unz, advocate of English-only instruction, what is called bilingual education actually consists of mostly Spanish language instructions with little English incorporated into teaching. Since over half of America's LED students were born in the United States with most of the remainder coming here at a young age, the argument that older students have a more difficult time learning English covers only a small percentage of LED students (Sailer). Comparing the English immersion program with the bilingual program, English-only instruction would appear to be more successful, not because it is necessarily a better program but because the bilingual method is not being well utilized.
Respected author Maxine Hong Kingston was born in California and in her biographical novel Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts, she recognizes the language and cultural barriers she faced during her childhood. She attended both public school and Chinese school, and her family mostly consisted of Chinese immigrants, who labeled anyone not Chinese as "ghosts." The idea of a bilingual education at that time did not exist, and Kingston had to learn English in order to communicate with English-speaking students, teachers, and business people. Even so, for her, the cultural barriers were far more difficult to overcome.
Propositions 227 and 203
Proposition 227, passed in 1998,