Bilingual education is not new in the United States. English has not always been the only language used in American schools.
German immigrants (whose population make up the largest ethnic group in America) established German-English bilingual schools in Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Hoboken, Cleveland, and many other cities. These were public schools and German was not only taught as a subject, it was used as a medium of instruction between 1880-1917. These schools flourished until the political tensions of World War I caused their demise.
In Louisiana, French was used as the medium of instruction, and in New Mexico, Spanish was used.
I think it is interesting to note that the recent revival of bilingual education emerged from the political-social issues of the 1960’s, not from the area of foreign language teaching. Also, that Dr. Rudolph Troike, former director of the federally funded center for Applied Linguistics and a bilingual supporter, has allowed that the Bilingual Education Act of 1968 was passed by Congress “largely as an article of faith, with little research to support it” (New Haven Register 1983: p. 7)
It was believed that unilingual teaching in English restricted the educational opportunities of non English-speaking students. It was affirmed that education was a basic right, therefore schools had an obligation to use the native languages of these children in their classrooms.
It was in this atmosphere of social equity that the bilingual act of 1968 was passed by Congress as title VII of the amended Elementary and Secondary Education Act which was enacted in 1965. The objectives of Title VII were; to provide funds for the planning and implementation of programs “designed to meet the special needs of children of limited English-speaking ability in schools having a high concentration of such children from families . . . with incomes below $3000.00 per year.” (Cordasco 1982: p. 251)
The Bilingual Education act was renewed in 1974 and again in 1978, and is due for renewal in 1983.
In 1971 Massachusetts was the first state to legislate the establishment of a transitional bilingual program. By 1978, ten states adopted similar bilingual education statues.