APS Spurns Bilingual Settlement

District Doesn't Accept Terms To End Lawsuit

Albuquerque Public Schools has rejected a settlement offer that could have ended a lawsuit over the district’s bilingual education programs, according to an attorney handling the suit.

APS officials would not comment on the matter Monday.

The settlement offer asked APS to significantly alter how students are placed in bilingual classes. In exchange, the plaintiffs would have dropped a lawsuit demanding APS eliminate bilingual education programs, which serve more than 24,000 students.

But Paul Adams, an attorney handling the lawsuit against the district, said APS officials informed him Friday they would not accept the terms of the offer.

He said he was given no further explanation, and he has since rescinded his offer to APS.

“It’s no longer on the table,” he said.

The lawsuit is funded by the Center for Equal Opportunity, a conservative organization headed by Linda Chavez, who has sought to eliminate bilingual education programs across the nation.

Chavez’s group also backed a ballot initiative that has spelled an end to most bilingual programs in California.

At least one school board member complained Monday that the district rejected the settlement offer without informing the board.

Robert Lucero said the terms of the offer could have bearing on district policy, which the school board is charged with establishing.

Lucero, who heads the board’s policy committee, said he would ask district administrators to explain their decision at a committee meeting scheduled today.

The settlement offer — which was presented to APS earlier this month — would have allowed APS to put students in bilingual classes only if their parents asked that they be sent there.

Currently, parents must ask to have their children removed from the classes if they believe their children would fare better in English-only classes.

Those suing APS claim the current system is mired in bureaucracy, making it difficult for parents to opt their children out of bilingual programs.

APS’ programs are structured to meet specific requirements from the federal government. Some have suggested the settlement offer could have imperiled APS’ compliance with those regulations.

Bilingual education programs teach students in their native language while they learn English. The programs can also help students become literate in two languages.

Critics maintain that students generally fare better if all their instruction is in English. The lawsuit against APS would require the district cease all native language instruction.

Adams said the case is scheduled to go to trial in June. However, both sides have asked the court to rule on the matter without it going to trial. Such a ruling is expected within the next several weeks, he said.

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