Amendments to the Bilingual Education Act

1974 amendments
The Bilingual Education Act of 1968 was not specific and participation by school districts was voluntary. As a result, Civil rights activists argued that the rights of minority-language students were being violated under this act. In 1974, three amendments were made to the original act in an attempt to clarify the intent and design of programs designated for the education of LESA students. There were two significant events that impacted these changes: the Lau V. Nichols case and the Equal Educational Opportunity Act of 1974.

Lau v. Nichols was a class-action suit brought against the San Francisco School District and alleged that due to their inability to speak English, there were 1,800 Chinese students who were being denied an equal education. In 1974, the Supreme Court overruled the ruling of the lower courts and determined that the same resources, teachers and curriculum did not imply that the education was equal for students who had a limited command of the English language. In the same year as the Supreme Court's ruling, the Equal Education Opportunity Act was passed. By citing instructional programs as the means through which language barriers were to be broken, it effectively extended the Lau ruling to all students and school districts. Furthermore, school districts were required to have special programs for LESA students regardless of federal or state funding.

The amendments in 1974 served to do the following:
- define "Bilingual Education Program" as one that provided instruction in English and in the native language of the student to allow the student to progress effectively through the educational system
- define the program's goal to prepare LESA students to participate effectively in the regular classroom as quickly as possible while simultaneously maintaining the native language and culture of the student
- create regional support centers of consultants and trainers to provide support to school systems
- stipulate capacity-building efforts by providing funds to school districts' efforts to expand curricula, staff and research for bilingual programs

Funding increased from $7.5 million in 1968 to $68 million and as a result, programs were able to impact 368,000 students.

1978 amendments
In 1978, further amendments were made to extend the act and broaden the definition of eligible students. Specifically, these amendments served to do the following:
-emphasize the strictly transitional nature of native language instruction
-expand eligibility to students who are limited English proficient (LEP)
-permit enrollment of English-speaking students in bilingual programs

Funding increased from $68 million in 1974 to $135 million which was enough to provide funding for 565 school districts and for secondary programs including service centers, graduate school fellowships and training for undergraduate students interested in becoming bilingual educators.

1984 amendments
In 1984, the Bilingual Education Act was further modified. The amendments enacted during this time served to:
-increase the flexibility in the implementation of programs for LEP students by providing school districts with more autonomy and independence in deciding how these students should be taught
-allow school districts to apply for funding for different, innovative programs that best met the needs of their students

Funding for these amendments was $139.4 million and there was a heavy emphasis placed on districts using the funding to build enough capacity to eventually be able to support LEP programs without federal government funding.

1988 amendments
The BEA was amended again in 1988. The changes this year served to:
-increase funding to state education agencies
-expand funding for "special alternative" programs
-create fellowship programs for professional training

Funding for the 1988 amendments was $159 million, with regulations for how the money should be divided. Specifically, at least 60% should be spent developing programs and at least 25% of funds should be spent on training.

1994 reauthorization
The Bilingual Education Act (BEA) reauthorization in 1994 maintained the same tenets as the original BEA, introduced new grant categories, set up preference to programs promoting bilingualism, and took into account indigenous languages. Overall, the premise of this addition was to introduce a more systemic reform.

Priority given to bilingualism programs: Though the Bilingual Education Act legislation did not prescribe specific instructional practices, it did provide a guide to help language minority students. The 1994 reauthorization gave preference to grant applications that developed bilingual proficiency, which Local Education Agencies had the right to develop themselves based on the guidelines of the BEA.

In the FY2000 691 Bilingual Education Instructional Service Grants were given out totaling just over $162 million. The largest grants in FY2000 were given to the state of California and New York at approximately $58 million and $22.5 million respectively.

1994 California Proposition 187 was introduced in order to prevent illegal immigrants from obtaining state provided health care, social services and public education. This was voted on by the public and became a law in November 1994. Citizens challenged the constitutionality of this proposition and in March 1998 it was ruled unconstitutional and was taken away. Though the law did not last, it impacted students who were ELL throughout the mid-to-late 1990s.