ARLINGTON – Two Hispanic organizations say their top concerns with the Arlington school district are its lack of stipends for certified bilingual education teachers and its lack of money for textbooks and workbooks.
Members of the League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC, and the Arlington Hispanic Advisory Council, or AHAC, expressed their concerns to district officials at the school board meeting Thursday.
“There are no stipends for bilingual teachers and there should be,” said Gloria Pena, a member of AHAC and president of Image de Arlington, a civil rights, employment and education organization.
“Surrounding school districts give bilingual teachers stipends – why not AISD? “
Charlene Robertson, the district’s spokeswoman, said the district doesn’t use stipends to hire teachers even though some school districts do.
“It’s a philosophical issue, and it becomes an equality issue,” said Robertson, referring to the bilingual education instructors.
“They’re spending the same amount of time in front of a classroom – it’s not extra duty. “
The district provides stipends for “extra duties” that require a significant amount of time working with students outside the classroom, Robertson said. Those positions include journalism instructors, student council advisers and athletic and debate coaches, she said.
But LULAC and AHAC members say that bilingual educators have told them they spend an average of eight to 12 hours each week outside of the classroom translating and compensating for the inadequate and poor-quality materials.
“We’re losing teachers to districts that are offering stipends,” said Sylvia Salinas, a member of LULAC. “We need to reward them for their efforts, and stipends would be the way to do that. “
As for the materials used in the bilingual program, district officials acknowledge the problem.
“The big issue is that the state of Texas has not adopted textbooks and workbooks for the bilingual program,” Robertson said.
“The problem is we have no books coming out of Austin for certain subjects. However, the district has purchased some materials to supplement learning in those subject areas. “
LULAC and AHAC members also questioned the way the school district distributes federal and local funds that have been allocated to specific programs. Members say federal funds that were earmarked for bilingual education were not used for those programs.
District officials disagree.
“We did not receive federal money last year, and this fall is the first time we’re qualified for federal money,” said Dr. Gilda Alvarez Evans, the district’s director of bilingual and English as a second language, or ESL, programs.
The money will be used to hire personnel for the bilingual and ESL programs, provide parent outreach for immigrants, provide child care for parents who attend ESL classes and for summer school, Alvarez Evans said. This year the district received $ 187,000, and the entire district will benefit from the funds, she added.
LULAC and AHAC officials acknowledged that the district is making strides in its bilingual programs but said that more needs to be done to enhance its offerings.
“We’re appealing to AISD to use every penny available for the bilingual program,” said Nelda Perez, a member of AHAC. “How can a teacher come into a classroom and teach all that’s required without the appropriate books? “
Toya Stewart, (817) 548-5521