That repeated promise by President Reagan to get Washington "off the backs" of Americans with fewer federal regulations already has a specific result in the field of education, Monitor correspondent Lucia Mouat writes. In announcing Feb. 2 the withdrawal of proposed federal bilingual education rules requiring public schools to educate non-English- speaking students in their native language, Education Secretary Terrel Bell insisted that "nothing in the law or the Constitution anoints the Department of Education as . . . national school superintendent or national school board." But he stressed that the pullback was in not a retreat from the 1974 Supreme Court ruling that the Civil Rights Act requires schools to provide special help to students of limited English skills.
The action sparked immediate concern at the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund in New York, a longtime advocate of bilingual education as a civil right, that Wahington's backoff could be interpreted as a lack of support for the concept. Ignacio Perez, a fund attorney, said, "I'm conc erned that it could trigger the wrong signal."