The landmark case of Lau vs. Nichols opened the doors to a more equal opportunity for students learning English as a second language, to catch up to their contemporaries who had the advantage of having English as a first language. The ruling of Lau vs. Nichols has made an impact in “defining the legal responsibilities of schools serving limited English proficient students.” Although the case itself did not specify the remedy for schools with deficient bilingual/ bicultural education programs, the outcome of the case has led to an increase in bilingual programs showing that this ruling has made a direct and immediate impact on the growth of this area in education.
Although Lau vs. Nichols had a tremendous impact on bilingual education programs of schools and their development this growth has not been consistent. According to the book Bilingual and ESL Classrooms authored by Ovando, Combs, and Collier, what has the greatest impact on programs is State legislation. The rise and fall of these programs are determined at the State level and vary from state to state. As in the case of California, in spite having one the largest number of limited English –proficient students as well as virtually every school board and educators’ organization endorsing the bilingual education statute in 1986, the governor vetoed the measure. This example as given by the text shows the impact state legislation has on the development of these kinds of programs. But, the case of California is not the norm. As seen in the book Bilingual and ESL classrooms, there has been a steady rise in the number of states that have bilingual education programs as a requirement in their school systems. “By 1983, bilingual education was explicitly permitted by law in 43 states,” and, while there are still those that do prohibit instruction in languages other than English, these mandates are no longer enforced. These examples show that students today are receiving a more fair and equal education. Although there are variances between the different states, I believe that the Lau vs. Nichols has succeeded in pushing for a more equitable education to students who treat English as a second language.