City officials confirmed that the nation’s bilingual educators will hold their 1999 28th annual conference in Denver. ”While it brings an economic impact and thousands of dollars to the city, it also brings bilingual education to center stage,” said Fidel ”Butch” Montoya, Denver’s manager of public safety.
The announcement was made this week at the Governor’s Mansion to coincide with the Mexican government’s distribution of 11,000 books to schools and migrant communities in Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming. Susan Garcia, a Denver board member for the Washington, D.C.-based National Association for Bilingual Education, confirmed that the conference will be held Jan. 27-30 at the Colorado Convention Center. The conference, which is being staged this year in Dallas, is expected to bring about 7,000 educators, government officials, policy-makers, community representatives and corporate executives from across the country. The bilingual education association previously had selected Denver but balked about coming to the Mile High City after a dispute arose between Denver Public Schools and proponents of bilingual education. The debate centered on how best to instruct Spanish-speaking children. DPS supports bilingual education but wants children immersed in English-language courses sooner than the current policy provides. But backers of bilingual education said children become better students if they stay in Spanish-language instruction for a longer period. Mexico’s secretary of public education made the book donation to schools and migrant education centers to help Spanish-speaking children advance in their native language while learning English. The donation also was intended for English-speaking students who want to learn Spanish, Mexican government officials in Denver said. Each set contains 50 books primarily for elementary schoolchildren in Colorado schools. The biggest recipients were the teachers and educators belonging to the Colorado Association for Bilingual Education, who received 120 sets of books to distribute among state schools and recreation centers. ”Spanish materials are quite expensive and cost more than the English materials,” said Betty C de Baca, principal of Smedley Family Resource School. The only blemish on the distribution of books occurred when demonstrators protested the Mexican government’s policies in Chiapas state, the site of an Indian rebellion and conflict.