DPS, feds to end dispute Bilingual ed settlement near

Denver Public Schools is on the brink of settling a dispute with the federal government over bilingual education.

The agreement, still not formally approved, will end a probe of the DPS bilingual education program launched by the U.S. Department of Education last year. The investigation followed a formal complaint by teachers and parents who claimed the district was shortchanging the 14,000 students who speak little or no English.

“Virtually everything has been agreed to,” said Peter Roos, an attorney representing the Congress of Hispanic Educators, plaintiffs in the case. Years of contention

The agreement could end years of bitter contention over bilingual education between Hispanic parents and DPS officials and save $ 30 million the federal government had threatened to withhold from the school district.

The main sticking point during the past year has been how and when to “mainstream” Spanish-speaking students into regular classes taught in English. The district pushed for a three-year limit on bilingual instruction; opponents, meanwhile, wanted unlimited classes in Spanish for students struggling with English.

Sources said a compromise had been reached on how and when students would move into regular classes.

The last major hurdle apparently was cleared several weeks ago, when both sides agreed that the new bilingual program would be monitored by the federal government for a maximum of three years. Still to be decided is the actual length of the monitoring period.

That issue is expected to be hammered out at a meeting Dec. 2 in Washington, D.C., sources said.

Formal approval by the Denver school board could happen as soon as next month, sources said. School Superintendent Irv Moskowitz declined to comment.

“I’m optimistic we will resolve this issue and focus our energies on educating the children,” DPS board President Sue Edwards said Wednesday.

Cristine Debartolo, spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Justice, which is investigating the dispute for the education department, declined to comment.

DPS has been under federal investigation since October 1997, when the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights found that DPS had violated federal law by failing to adequately educate students with limited English-speaking skills.

DPS faced the loss of $ 30 million in federal money if it failed to solve the problems. The money would have come from programs for low-income, at-risk students, special education and vocational training.

The Department of Education found that Denver had hired bilingual teachers who weren’t fluent in Spanish, had misidentified some students who needed bilingual education as needing special education, and had failed to provide adequate bilingual resources, including textbooks. Those problems are expected to be resolved with the new settlement, sources said.

Denver was one of 19 school districts in Colorado under scrutiny by the government, but almost all except DPS already have submitted acceptable plans to correct the problems.

The district’s bilingual plan has been under federal jurisdiction since its inception in 1984.

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