The Denver school board agreed Wednesday to seek a $3.3 million federal grant to train bilingual teachers and let some students become literate in both Spanish and English.
The grant was held up two weeks ago over concerns that it would violate a court-approved program to teach English acquisition only.
The board agreed to modifications that make learning English the first priority for all students within three years. Any Spanish enrichment beyond three years would be optional and a choice of parents.
Voting to go ahead with the grant were James Mejia, Elaine Berman, Les Woodard and Lucia Guzman. Opposed were Bennie Milliner, Sharon Macdonald and Sue Edwards.
The opponents said they wanted to give the district’s one-year-old English acquisition movement a longer trial before trying anything different. The district’s investment of $500,000 over five years also is a problem, Milliner said.
The district has nearly 16,000 students who speak limited English, 93 percent of whom speak Spanish. The poor literacy skills caused by the language barrier keeps the achievement by those students among the worst in the district.
“This actually takes the district back,” Milliner said. “It sends a very confusing message.”
Opponents also objected because the proposal, which still must win federal approval, was rushed with little review.
Eventually up to eight schools could volunteer for the program. Supporters like the choice it offers parents and the teacher training.
“One size does not fit all,” Berman said.