4-year max to bilingual ed pushed

The schools chief says kids may be referred to get funds.

Saying that some school districts may be keeping children in
bilingual education classes to get money, the state’s public schools
chief wants to limit bilingual enrollment to four years.

Districts receive about $350 in state and federal funding each
year for every student in bilingual programs, and there is no limit
on how long students can stay in them, state Superintendent of Public
Instruction Lisa Graham Keegan said yesterday.

“We are keeping these children in there forever and maybe because
of financial inducements,” she told the Tucson Citizen’s Editorial
Board.

In Tucson Unified School District, for example, 12,000 of its
64,000 students are in bilingual classes, bringing the district $4.2
million a year.

Keegan also criticized bilingual education programs statewide for
their low “reassignment” rates.

Students are reassigned from limited-English proficient classes to
mainstream ones when they are able to speak and write in English.

She said TUSD reassigns only about 14 percent of its bilingual
students.

Keegan’s comments come as a Tucson-based group opposed to
bilingual education seeks signatures for a ballot initiative that
would dismantle bilingual programs statewide.

Keegan said she also is unhappy with how children are placed in
bilingual programs.

When parents register their child in school, they are asked if the
child speaks a language other than English at home. A “yes” answer
often determines the child’s eligibility for bilingual programs.

Keegan said there also have been reports of districts placing
students in bilingual programs if they have Spanish surnames.

She said the state Department of Education, which she heads, will
soon make changes in how children are selected for the programs.

“Test scores ought to be determining (their placement) – nothing
else,” she said.

Keegan said the department will make more information about the
placement available to parents so they can be proactive in choosing
bilingual programs for their children.



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