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Jaime Escalante: 1930—: Educator

Joined English For Children Initiative

In 1997 Escalante was asked by his peers to run for the position of state superintendent of public schools, but he declined. That same year he joined the "English for Children" initiative, which was a campaign against bilingual education in California schools. Escalante believed that children suffered in bilingual programs because they were not being taught English at the early ages when it was easiest to learn the language. As he told the Los Angeles Times in November of 1997, "It's good to have bilingual teachers who speak two languages. But if you teach the kids in Spanish, you're not preparing them for life." When the controversial Proposition 227 passed in California dismantling bilingual education, Escalante received a lot of hate mail on the subject.

The controversy surrounding Proposition 227 and his less successful tenure at Johnson led Escalante to retire from teaching in 1998 at the age of 66. He planned to continue his work by evaluating testing procedures for the ETS and giving public lectures. As he told the Los Angeles Times in November of 1998, "I am still trying to do what I can, raising money for scholarships and motivating teachers and people." He also moved back to his native country, splitting his time between Bolivia and the United States. He has become a legend in both countries. In Bolivia he taught at the Universidad del Valle and has had several schools named after him. In the United States Escalante continued to spread his message about the power of encouragement and education. "I am not looking for recognition," he told the Los Angeles Times in May of 1995. "I'm trying to prove that potential is anywhere and we can teach any kid if we have the ganas (desire) to do it."



Mathews, Jay, Escalante: The Best Teacher in America, Henry Holt and Co., 1988.


American Enterprise, July 1999, p. 10.

Boston Globe, September 1, 1991, p. 2.

Insight on the News, December 22, 1997, p. 18.

Los Angeles Times, June 27, 1990, p. A19; June 19, 1991, p. B3; August 29, 1991, p. 1; October 23, 1992, p. B1; May 23, 1995; September 19, 1997, p. B10; November 13, 1997, p. A3; May 18, 1998, p. R4; November 15, 1998, p. B1; June 14, 1999, p. A1; July 18, 2001, p. 2.

Newsday, May 28, 1997, p. B3; June 11, 1998, p. A23.

Newsweek, March 14, 1988, p. 62; July 20, 1992, p. 58.

Omaha World-Herald, April 28, 2001, p. 15.

People Weekly, April 11, 1988, p. 57.

U.S. News and World Report, February 26, 1996, p. 62.

Washington Monthly, May 1989, p. 58; May 10, 1999.

Washington Post, August 9, 1990, p. B1; April 10, 1994; March 5, 2000, p. W9; January 31, 2002, p. T4.

—Janet P. Stamatel

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Trevor Edwards Biography - Accepted Wisdom from His Mother to Francisco Franco (1892–1975) BiographyJaime Escalante: 1930—: Educator Biography - Early Teaching Experience, Immigrated To The United States, Challenged Students To Excel, Became A National Hero