America’s Spanish-speaking children need to learn English, and they need to learn it quickly enough that their education won’t suffer.

That’s why we have lauded the Denver Public Schools’ plan that aims to get these children proficient in English within three years so they can transition into English-speakingclasses.

After the Congress of Hispanic Educators filed a lawsuit in 1984 over Denver’s bilingual education, DPS developed its English Language Acquisition Program, which won the endorsement of then-Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch last June.

Now this excellent plan could be imperiled by a $ 3.3 million grant proposal, which was approved by Superintendent Chip Zullinger without any input from district attorneys, staffers or board members.

The grant would allow ‘late exit’ from Spanish-speaking classrooms, keeping those youngsters removed even longer from the academics and English that they so desperately need.

The grant also would provide for more comprehensive training of Spanish-speaking paraprofessionals and teachers, and it could promote more bilingualism among students.

We’re all for increasing the number and training of bilingual teachers, and we hope Spanish-speaking students will develop into bilingual adults – preserving their original language while perfecting their new one. However, any move to keep these children mired in Spanish-speaking classrooms, rather than helping them obtain the English skills that they need, is a mistake.

It’s also a mistake for the superintendent to unilaterally approve a major new program without seeking the response of his staff, board and especially the district’s legal counsel.

The DPS bilingual program is under way because of a court order. While Zullinger still is somewhat new, this program is a major issue in Denver schools. Anything that would affect its legal status should be given thorough research before decisions are made.

Zullinger’s approval of this grant prompted strong dissent on the board, and rightly so. Such decisions require teamwork, and the team was inappropriately excluded from this one.

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