An Elgin School District U-46 board member criticized for saying a child in Puerto Rico has a “better chance of getting exposed to English than a student in U-46″ maintains that his observations are accurate.

“I stand by my comments,” board member Doug Heaton said after Tuesday night’s board meeting. “I don’t think we are exposing (bilingual students) to English quickly enough.”

Heaton made the controversial comments at a board meeting in mid-December. At that time, the board was voting on a new attendance boundary plan that would increase the minority population at several elementary schools.

Before casting the sole vote against the plan, Heaton discussed an article he had read in an education journal.

That story profiled a program in Puerto Rico in which 2nd-grade students spend 90 minutes per day receiving lessons in English and use math and science textbooks written in English.

He suggested that U-46 bilingual students receive the same intense training.

More than 70 parents and teachers of bilingual students showed up at Tuesday night’s meeting to protest Heaton’s published comments.

They said Heaton did not recognize the accomplishments nor the importance of the bilingual program.

“Obviously these parents here think the program is good and probably should be maintained the way it is,” Heaton said hours after the group had left the board room.

“I am not out of touch with that. I do not advocate the elimination of the bilingual program. I believe in an accelerated program.”

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