Local and national Hispanic groups are holding a community meeting today to discuss their concerns about bilingual education in Denver Public Schools.

The meeting is slated for 10 a.m. at Escuela Tlatelolco, 2949 Federal Blvd.
“We are very excited about this effort that has brought many people together,” said Pam Martinez, co-chairwoman of Padres Unidos, which filed a complaint against DPS regarding its bilingual program and has accused DPS of racism.

“This is a broad united front to defeat the efforts by DPS to dismantle bilingual education,” she said.

Denver’s bilingual education program is being reviewed by the U.S. Department of Justice, after the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights last year ruled that the DPS program failed to adequately teach students with limited English speaking skills.

The bilingual program, which serves more than 13,000 students in Denver, has been under federal jurisdiction since its inception in 1984.

Government officials have already started their investigation.

This week, Justice Department officials from Washington, D.C., met with Hispanic parents in Denver about the bilingual program. Government officials are expected to attend today’s community meeting, although that could not be confirmed Friday.

DPS has remained adamant in its support of its bilingual program, despite the possibility of losing up to $ 30 million in federal funding if mandated changes are not made.

The district plan calls for three years of instruction in Spanish before students are mainstreamed into regular classes. Opponents say that is not enough time.

“Nothing’s changed,” DPS spokesman Mark Stevens said. “As far as we know, the ball is in their court. We’re waiting on the Justice Department to tell us their next move.”

Representatives from the National Association of Bilingual Educators and National Council of Latin American Research and Service Agency are expected to attend the meeting, along with local Hispanic advocates.

But a quick fix isn’t likely. The government’s investigation could take up to two years, and the issue may be resolved only by going to court.

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