Bilingual program scores in budget

DPS will hold hearing, salaries next hurdle

The Denver Public Schools came out with a proposed 2000-01 budget Tuesday that would boost spending on bilingual education by one-third. It also would make more money available for counseling in middle schools and arts education in elementary schools.

Concerned that the public doesn’t normally get to participate in the budget process, the school board and district staff also decided to hold a budget hearing at 6:15 p.m. June 15 at DPS headquarters, 900 Grant St.

The proposed $ 429 million budget is balanced, said Craig Cook, the district’s chief operating officer. But that won’t last, he warned: Over the next few weeks DPS must reach salary agreements with teachers and other unionized employees, which will cause a shortfall of several million dollars.

The proposal adds $ 806,344 to the $ 2.4 million the English Language Acquisition program received in 1999-2000, its first year. The program, devised to settle a lawsuit accusing DPS of inadequately teaching English to speakers of Spanish and other languages, got off to a bumpy start, with a court monitor finding it suffers from inadequate training, staffing and computer resources.

Other notable proposed changes include $ 897,247 for a new middle-school counseling program and $ 200,000 for an arts-education pilot program for elementary schools. Which schools will get into the pilot hasn’t been decided.

The proposal also revealed that the district is distancing itself from one project championed by former superintendent Chip Zullinger. A $ 280,000 program dubbed the Student Achievement Plan, which was to help schools administer the state-mandated performance test known as CSAP, is being scrapped. Zullinger requested the money last year, but never did anything with it, said DPS spokesman Mark Stevens.

Board members said families have serious complaints about DPS money matters that need airing. For example, board member Sue Edwards said she often hears from parents frustrated that hundreds of costumes meant to be used in school plays are sitting in a warehouse, inaccessible, because the district eliminated the two workers who used to take care of them three years ago to save $ 50,000 a year. Fellow board member Sharon Macdonald said she spends several hundred dollars a year on costumes for her kids as a result.

‘It does preclude some children from taking part,’ she said.

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