Futher action on the controversial bilingual education regulations recently, proposed by the Department of Education has been halted until June after Congress decided it needed time to assess the cost and impact of the regulations.
The regulations would require public schools to offer transitional bilingual classes to any group of 25 or more students in two consecutive grades who speak the same foreign language and understand little English. The department said in making its proposal last August that more than 3.5 million school-age children in the United State have languages other than English as their first or best language.
The Senate Appropriations Committee voted in September to block imposition of the rules until June 1 to give Congress time to consider the cost of implementing the regulations. The committee also wants to study the question of whether the federal government would be coming too close to mandating a curriculum.
Several area school boards have voiced oppostion to what they said was federal interference with local control of education.
The Montgomery County and Prince George's County Boards of Education sent board members to a public hearing in New York City Sept. 10 to testify against the proposed federal guidelines.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors also voted this month to challenge the legality of the Department of Education rules if they are adopted.
The cost of introducing bilingual classes nationwide has been estimated to cost up to $600 million, most of which would be paid for by local school districts.
Schools in this area have several programs to teach English as a second language. Montgomery County gives instruction in English as a second language to 2,300 students, Alexandria schools to 570, Prince George's to 1,100 and Fairfax to 2,700.
In addition, 200 Hispanic, Vietnamese and Korean students in Montgomery County and about 50 Vietnamese and Hispanic students in Arlington take transitional bilingual classes.
The Department of Education saw its proposed rules as a way to comply with a 1974 Supreme Court ruling that schools must offer equal educational opportunity to all students including those who did not speak English.