Bilingual Education Act

The Bilingual Education Act of 1968 was the first piece of United States federal legislation in regards to minority language speakers. The bill was introduced in 1967 by Texas senator Ralph Yarborough. Its purpose was to provide school districts with federal funds to establish educational programs for students with limited English speaking ability. The bill was originally intended for Spanish-speaking students, but in 1968 merged into the all-encompassing Bilingual Education Act or Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The act encouraged instruction in English and multicultural awareness in the wake of the Civil Rights movement although it did not require bilingual programs. The act also gave school districts the opportunity to provide bilingual education programs without violating segregation laws.

The federal funding provided by this act to school districts was used for resources for educational programs, teacher training, development of materials and parent involvement projects. In 1969, $7.5 million was approved for spending on bilingual education programs. Successful programs were guaranteed federal funding for five years.

1974 Amendments to the Bilingual Education Act:
The Bilingual Education Act of 1968 was not specific and participation by school districts was voluntary. Civil rights activists claimed that the rights of minority language students were being violated even under this act. The decision of the supreme court case provided some clarity.

The case was a class-action suit against the San Francisco school district on grounds that many Chinese students were not receiving a quality education because of their limited English skills. The lower courts ruled that the Chinese students were receiving equal education, but the Supreme court disagreed ruling that equivalent school materials did not constitute equal education. The ruling of the case led to an issue by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare that mandated school districts to take affirmative steps to remedy English language deficiencies, beyond providing books and other learning materials that are provided to all students.

The Equal Educational Opportunity Act influenced the implementation of the Bilingual Education Act because it stated that language barriers must be overcome by instructional programming.

The Amendments:
* "Bilingual Education Program" was defined
* The program's goals were established
* Support centers were created
* Capacity building efforts

The revision defined a "bilingual education program" as one that provided instruction in English and in a native language to allow students to make progress in the educational system. These were not English as a second language (ESL) programs. The act affirmed that the goal of the program was to prepare students to succeed in an English-medium classroom as soon as possible while maintaining their native language.