Still, Washington should go even further. For example, 40 states still use Title III funds to support bilingual-instructional programs, where students are taught mostly (or exclusively) in their native tongue. New York, for example, has four bilingual programs, while Florida and California each have two. That's a mistake.
After all, as a 1998 report from the Lexington Institute showed, students in bilingual education classes learn English more slowly than students in regular classrooms do. That means they learn English later in life, which leaves them struggling to keep up with their peers.
Federal lawmakers should change grant program guidelines to eliminate bilingual education entirely. Every student who's learning English as a second language should do so in an immersion program. That'll help them learn English more quickly, so they can make the move to a standard classroom.
Immersion works. That's why parents of English-speaking students now enroll their elementary-age children in immersion programs for other languages. In Fairfax County, Virginia, for example, first graders can study Spanish, French, German or Japanese through immersion programs. We ought to extend benefits of similar programs to immigrant children who need to learn English.
A primary job of the federal government is to unify Americans. Besides being our native tongue, English is the language of commerce worldwide. Every student should be able to speak it fluently. That's the only way to ensure that no child gets left behind.