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Education secretary: No federal funds for 'black English'

graphic December 24, 1996
Web posted at: 8:15 p.m. EST

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Education Secretary Richard Riley repeated the government's position Tuesday that black English, or Ebonics, is not a distinct language from standard English and is ineligible for federal bilingual funding.

"Elevating black English to the status of a language is not the way to raise standards of achievement in our schools and for our students," he said. "The administration's policy is that Ebonics is a non-standard form of English and not a foreign language."

The Oakland, California, school board voted last week to recognize Ebonics as a legitimate language spoken by many of their African-American students.

The decision was denounced by many. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, head of the Rainbow/PUSH Action Network, said the move was an "unacceptable surrender, borderlining on disgrace." District administrators said they want to reach out to students who feel their spoken language is being ignored, and help them learn standard English.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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