Bilingual Education Act Aims to Serve Non-Native English Speakers


United States

Activism & Resistance Education

The 1968 Bilingual Education Act was the first federal legislation geared toward assisting students with limited English proficiency. Following the abolishment of the quota system (see also:The Quota System, 1965), the influx of new immigrants to the U.S. was met with school systems struggling to meet the needs of its growing non-native English speaking demographic. Moreover, the 1968 Act came on the heels of the Civil Rights Movement, which fought for more inclusive education systems and resulted in Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. Title VI included provisions for funding specifically for language programs for non-native English speakers. Ultimately, the act provided federal funding for schools that opted to develop a bilingual education program.

Chicano and Puerto Rican communities were at the forefront of the push for more inclusive education systems in the Sixties. In 1968, for instance, thousands of Chicano students walked out of classrooms as part of the East LA walkouts, to fight for their education and access to resources. The 1968 Act is one victory in a long history of contentious debates and legislation surrounding bilingual education (see also: State Legislation Authorizes German Bilingual Education, 1839). In 2002, the English Language Acquisition Act (Title III of the No Child Left Behind Act) transferred jurisdiction for bilingual education and English language acquisition programs to the state level. The struggle to provide adequate educational programs for non-Native English speakers is ongoing.