Professor discusses language instruction policy in schools



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Assistant Professor Amanda Rutherford lectures about The Voting Rights Act, English Only Laws, and Language Instruction in Local Schools as a part of the Governance & Management and Department of Political Science and Public Administration Speaker Series Friday afternoon at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs building. Rachel Meert Buy Photos

IU students and faculty gathered Friday, Sept. 4, at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs to learn about the effects of federal and state laws on language instruction policy in public schools.

Amanda Rutherford, an assistant professor at SPEA, shared the results of her latest research concerning the Voting Rights Act and English Only Laws and how they affect language instruction 
policy in local schools.

EO laws, which apply primarily to government programs, seek to nullify state and federal laws that mandate government provision of services in languages other than English.

Services affected by such laws include, but are not limited to, healthcare, social welfare services, job training, voting assistance and education.

Congress enacted the language minority provisions of the VRA because it found citizens of language minority groups have been excluded from participating in the electoral process through various discriminatory practices and procedures, according to the United States Department of Justice website.

“What this research project is looking at is whether some language provisions within the Voting Rights Act, specifically for the Spanish language, have any type of effect on what language policies are provided in individual schools,” Rutherford said.

Through statistical analysis of schools and staffing data collected from the National Center for Education Statistics, Rutherford found the VRA positively affected language accommodation and the likelihood of bilingual and native language instruction, while EO laws had negative effects.

“The fact that these laws have any kind of meaningful impact in these communities means that we need to pay attention to whether that policy continues, is reinstated or updated in terms of moving forward as a national discourse.” Rutherford said.

Rutherford said the study was one part of a larger research project, and many questions remain unanswered. This presentation was part of SPEA’s Governance and Management and Policy Analysis and Public Finanace speaker series.

“It is a means of sharing information about important research – sometimes in the developmental stage, sometimes completed with the campus community,” said Jim Hanchett, the director of marketing and communications at SPEA.

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