Implementation and Funding

When Senator Yarborough introduced the bill to the Senate in 1967, he envisioned it as a way of addressing the "'poor performance in school and high dropout rates... and great psychological harm' caused by 'English-only policies, no Spanish-speaking rules, and cultural degradation'" that was evident in many schools at the time.

Although the passage of the act was a bipartisan effort on behalf of Republicans and Democrats, it underwent significant changes between 1967 and 1968. Many of these changes were in the wording and framing of the act, which ultimately did not recognize the importance of biculturalism or the benefit of bilingualism or even the link between language and culture. Rather, it framed students of LESA as a "problem" that needed to be fixed. In addition, unlike what Yarborough had conceived, it provided no funding for permanent programs regarding students of LESA, as many people feared promoting a sense of entitlement in students and families benefitting from the act.

The BEA provided school districts with federal funds, in the form of competitive grants, to establish innovative educational programs for students with limited English speaking ability. The grants that the act provided were given directly to school districts and were to be used to buy resources for educational programs, to train teachers and teachers' aides, to develop and distribute materials and to create meaningful parental involvement projects. Although the act did not require the use of bilingual instruction or the use of a student's native language, its aim was to encourage innovative programs designed to teach students English. The act also gave school districts the opportunity to provide bilingual education programs without violating segregation laws, but at this time, participation was voluntary. Program effectiveness was evaluated at the end of every year and successful programs were eligible to receive federal funding for up to five years.

Because the BEA funding was provided in the form of grants, most of the financial clout lay with local and state education agencies (LEAs and SEAs). However, the federal government limited the reach of these funds in a few significant ways. To begin with, from a simple framing standpoint, the original 1968 BEA did not include any mention of instruction in or maintenance of a student's native language, limiting the potential impact of the act.

From a financial perspective, the BEA was also limited. The only programs eligible for receiving funding were programs for children between the ages of 3 and 8. Because it was meant to redress the dropout issue, the act with this caveat on funding viewed high school students of LESA somewhat of a lost cause. In addition, the act did not fund any permanent programs for educating students of LESA, but only funding exploratory programs. As a result, it did not seek to truly address the burgeoning issue of how to educate students who were not English dominant. Lastly, the funds were at first reserved for communities whose average income was below the poverty line stated in the ESEA ($3,000 in 1968). This limitation on funding had the unfortunate side effect of framing the act as a somewhat of a handout to poor, Latino communities.

Due to many of these limitations and the vague wording of much of the BEA, funding was limited in the first three years to $85 million. By 1972, "only 100,391 students nationally, out of approximately 5,000,000 in need were enrolled in a Title VII-funded program."