The setting at Kaune elementary school was perfect for Mario Moreno, assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Education, to speak on the importance of bilingual education and education funding.
Kaune students had greeted Moreno in their gymnasium with Mexican song and dance.
With a mural of an Indian pueblo and Zozobra in the background, Moreno joined students in games of El Gato Pide Rincon, which is something like musical chairs without the music.
“I’m going to take that game home with me and teach it to my daughter, and hope that she teaches it to her friends,” Moreno said.
After the games, Moreno spoke to students, parents and educators, calling for more community involvement in schools and sharing his experiences growing up dyslexic and knowing only Spanish.
“I went through a very brutal time trying to learn English,” he said.
Sam Baca, a parent of two Kaune students, agreed with Moreno on bilingual education.
“Some of our families have been here for 400 years and we have traditions that we have passed down from generation to generation,” Baca said. “To not preserve those traditions would be a big mistake. There’s no reason to abandon a culture that’s so rooted here in New Mexico, when we can utilize both cultures.”
Beatrice Dominguez, a first grade teacher at Kaune, said learning other languages is a way for students to keep up with a fast-changing world.
“The world is getting smaller because of advances in transportation,” she said. “Kids in some other countries are able to speak five or six languages.”
After meeting with the students, Moreno spoke to parents and educators about budget proposals by Congress that would cut education funds by $ 36 million and have an impact on bilingual education.
“It’s going to put our kids on a road to a second-class future,” he said. “No one is trying to make Spanish the national language,” he said.