Thousands of bilingual educators from throughout the nation will come to Denver next year for the 28th annual conference of the National Association for Bilingual Education.

The 1999 convention will bring 7,000 delegates and generate an estimated $ 8.4 million in spending, said Butch Montoya, Denver’s manager of public safety. It will be held January 27-30 “and will be one of the larger conventions to come here in 1999,” he said.

“But beyond the economic impact, it will bring a national forum to Denver to talk about the issue of bilingual education.”

The convention is expected to attract not only teachers and school administrators but government and educational policymakers, community leaders and corporate executives.

“This is a big piece of business for the city,” said Karen Garcia, convention bureau sales manager. “It is especially advantageous because it is in January – not our peak season.”

The bilingual education association almost backed out of coming to Denver because of an ongoing dispute between the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and Denver Public Schools over the district’s proposed new plan for instructing children with limited English skills.

DPS supports bilingual education but wants children to be immersed in English-language courses within three years. The Office of Civil Rights has questioned the plan, saying the district has not come up with adequate ways to measure when children are ready to leave the bilingual program.

Susan Garcia, a Denver parent and member of the NABE board (she is not related to Karen), and numerous local supporters of bilingual education prevailed on the group to come despite the dispute, said Karen Garcia. “The community has pulled together, and we have been assured that DPS will welcome NABE.”

According to NABE, nearly one in six school-age children in 1990 lived in a home where a language other than English was spoken regularly. During the past two decades, this segment of the U.S. population has been growing at a rate 250 percent faster than the overall population.

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