WASHINGTON: Bush shelves report on bilingual education

True to its policy of never letting facts get in the way of politics, the Bush administration announced Aug. 24 that it will not publish the conclusions of the National Literacy Panel regarding bilingual education. The administration commissioned the panel in 2002 to take “a good, hard look at existing research” on bilingual education.

The panel of leading educators from across the country found that non-English speaking children learn best when taught in both English and their own language.

Republicans have spearheaded ballot initiatives in many states for “English Only,” which eliminates bilingual education in public schools.

“A lot of us have applauded the secretary of education and the White House science adviser for pushing higher quality experimental designs in education, so now we can test school reforms in the same way we test drugs or food additives,” said Professor Bruce Fuller of the University of California–Berkeley. “But even after we meet these high standards, the administration doesn’t necessarily listen.”

James Crawford, executive director of the National Association for Bilingual Education, charged that the panel’s conclusions are “politically inconvenient.”

The panel said it will publish its findings independently.

LEXINGTON, Ky.: Families hit by public school textbook fees

The financial crisis in school districts around the country means high local taxes, school closings and slashed programs. Here in Lexington, families pay a yearly rental fee for public school textbooks, labs, lockers and computers.

As Judy Cavagnero prepared her daughter to go back to school, she received a bill from Paul Dunbar High School. Cavagnero had to pay $64 in rental fees for books, $5 for a locker, $5 for science lab and $5 for computer use at school. “We don’t qualify as poor but we don’t have that kind money floating around,” she said. “Public education has now become private education if we have to pay this ourselves.”

The Education Commission of the States reports that Kentucky is among 10 states, including Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, South Carolina, Utah, Colorado, Washington and Wisconsin, which charge a range of fees.

“People pay so much money to the school board,” said parent Lisa Johnson, who pays a $48 textbook rental fee to Henry Clay High School for her daughter. “Taxpayers pay for textbooks in every which way.”

WASHINGTON: Justice Dept. curbs voting rights in Georgia

Despite a massive civil rights march in Atlanta last month and a dramatic Statehouse walkout by African American lawmakers, the Justice Department Aug. 26 approved a measure passed by Georgia’s Legislature imposing the strictest voting qualifications in the country. No longer will Georgia voters be able to use birth certificates, Social Security cards or utility bills as identification at the polls. Georgia is the only state requiring a photo ID to cast a ballot on Election Day.

Daniel Levitas of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project in Atlanta said, “The [Justice Department] decision to clear the measure gives Georgia the most draconian voter identification requirement in the nation.”

“It’s not over yet,” said Rep. Tyrone Brooks, chairman of the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials. “We will pursue litigation in federal court.”

Georgia congressman and civil rights movement veteran leader John Lewis was shocked. “It is unbelievable, it is unreal that the Department of Justice — an agency that is supposed to protect the American public by enforcing the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — is now involved in attempts to weaken the act,” said Lewis.

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (dwinebr696@aol.com).