Bilingual Education Foe's Leaflet Takes Some Heat

A leaflet written to encourage students to join a lawsuit that would eliminate bilingual education programs at Albuquerque Public Schools came under attack in a protest Tuesday.

The leaflet tells parents their children could stand to receive $10,000 each for signing up as plaintiffs in the suit against Albuquerque Public Schools.

“It’s clearly ambulance-chasing,” said Jeanne Guana, who organized Tuesday’s protest as co-director of the SouthWest Organizing Project.

Protesters marched outside the Uptown office of attorney David Standridge, who is representing students in the lawsuit.

Standridge was out of town Tuesday and unavailable for comment.

But others say he had no knowledge of the leaflet or its distribution.

“I was the one who did it,” said bilingual education critic Jo Izay. “I acted alone.”

Izay is not tied directly to the lawsuit but has joined plaintiffs in their efforts to eliminate bilingual programs. She said she distributed the leaflets to parents.

In addition to seeking an end to bilingual programs, the suit asks for $10,000 in damages for each student plaintiff who claims they were hurt by bilingual programs.

Standridge has added at least a dozen students to the original 14 plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Guana said the leaflet is unethical, since it solicits clients by offering them a financial reward.

Jorge Amselle of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a national nonprofit group which is funding the lawsuit, agrees that the leaflet was inappropriate. But he said Standridge asked that it not be distributed as soon as he discovered it.

“It was the fault of some overenthusiastic people,” Amselle said.

Amselle said the lawsuit against APS is not about helping families win cash awards.

“It’s not supposed to be about money; it’s supposed to be about improving education,” he said.

The lawsuit seeks to eliminate all native language instruction within APS. In those courses, students who are unfamiliar with English are taught some subjects in their native language while they learn English.

On Tuesday, several bilingual supporters said the programs are critical to help students not only learn English effectively but to retain and even enhance their Spanish.

The SouthWest Organizing Project is one of several organizations that have intervened in the bilingual lawsuit. While Standridge and the student plaintiffs are seeking to end the programs, SWOP and others are seeking to improve and even expand them.

“We have got our criticisms of the APS programs, too, and we are seeking more parent involvement, more accountability and better administration,” said SWOP co-director Michael Leon-Guerrero. “But eliminating bilingual education is like throwing the baby out with the bath water.”

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