Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education president Richard Toledo said Wednesday the district needs to brace for an “extremely expensive” legal battle as it defends its bilingual education programs against a recent lawsuit.
Linda Chavez — whose group the Center for Equal Opportunity is funding the effort to eliminate APS’ bilingual programs — plans to address a group at the University of New Mexico this evening.
At Chavez’s invitation, 14 APS students and their families filed a lawsuit in March demanding that APS drop its bilingual programs, which seek to instruct non-English speaking students in their native language.
Chavez and the plaintiffs argue that such programs fail to teach students English quickly enough — and in some cases not at all.
While APS officials will not comment on details of the suit, Toledo said Wednesday that administrators are concerned about the pending legal battle.
Not only could the suit become “extremely expensive,” he said, but APS officials do not yet have a firm grip on how to deal with the suit.
“Because of the size of the district, I don’t think anyone has a handle on what the district is doing with its bilingual programs,” Toledo said.
The case is scheduled to go to court as soon as January.
Albuquerque attorney David Standridge, who is heading the case against the district, said he recently received four boxes of internal documents from APS dealing with its bilingual programs.
Standridge said the documents support his claim that APS does not adequately monitor the progress of students who are trying to learn English.
“The whole goal of bilingual education is to mainstream kids into regular classes,” he said. “But because APS does not track students, we have no way of knowing if that is happening.”
APS officials have said they have only recently begun to compile statistics that would chart the effectiveness of bilingual programs.
Standridge said he expects his case to also question how the district identifies which students should be placed in bilingual programs.
He said information collected from APS backs his claim that parents are not always told they can remove their children from the programs if they choose.
Since the litigation was filed, a group of bilingual education supporters has joined the lawsuit as a third party, demanding that programs be expanded rather than eliminated.
“We have one group saying we have too many bilingual programs and another saying we do not provide enough,” APS Superintendent Brad Allison said Wednesday. “Somewhere in the middle lies the truth.”
Bilingual program address
LINDA CHAVEZ is scheduled to speak at the University of New Mexico Law School’s Bondurant Lecture Hall on 1117 Stanford Drive NE from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. today. The event is open to the public.