The nation’s bilingual educators have tentatively selected Denver for their 1999 conference, an event that could draw 8,000 visitors. The National Association for Bilingual Education had planned to come to Colorado more than a year ago but pulled out when Denver Public Schools became embroiled in a dispute with some advocates of bilingual education over how to best instruct Spanish-speaking students.
The DPS dispute continues, and federal officials are considering suing the district over the effectiveness of its effort to more rapidly move students from bilingual programs into mainstream classes. Officials with Washington, D.C.-based association refused Friday to discuss their decision. But Karen M. Garcia, sales manager for the Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau, acknowledged that the bilingual association had tentatively selected the Mile High City for its four-day conference next year. Garcia said she and association officials are still working out contract details. ”I would say we’re 90 percent sure” the association is coming, Garcia said. Representatives of the bilingual group flew to Denver three weeks ago and were escorted around the city by Garcia. At the time, Garcia was hoping for a quick response from the group because she had a waiting list of potential users for the Colorado Convention Center. ”I hope it happens because it’s a convention that the city has worked very hard to bring in,” said Rosemary Rodriguez, Denver’s clerk and recorder, and an adviser to Mayor Wellington Webb. Some backers of bilingual education and DPS officials have been divided over the district’s direction to modify the program. The district still supports bilingual instruction but wants school children immersed into English classrooms quicker. Bilingual education advocates have argued that more years in the program have proven a success, but that it’s only failed when teachers and students didn’t have the resources to improve their education.