Paying a high price
October 28, 2002
I write to you with added concerns on Amendment 31.
We already know that Amendment 31 brings with it hidden costs, punitive action toward teachers and other school faculty members and the loss of local education control, and yes, the fact that many children already struggling to learn a second language will struggle even more.
We also know that this measure has also been presented as a measure to do away with segregation in the schools, so let’s look at this more closely.
Are children in a bilingual program that includes a 50/50 ratio, 50 percent English speaking and 50 percent Spanish speaking children, segregated? No, although there are only some bilingual programs that work this way, the students that have mainstreamed into a regular classroom are also sharing the regular classroom with other students.
The fact is, ESL, or any other form of bilingual instruction, does just the opposite of what Mr. Unz would like us to believe, it allows limited English students to integrate while they learn about the U.S.; whereas Amendment 31, would cause the worst type of segregation, right in the classroom, for all to learn and question.
For me, segregation is being put somewhere you do not want to be. Most children are not ready and do not want to be thrown into a regular classroom after only nine months (one school year) of ESL or ELL instruction, and quite frankly, teachers do not want to be put in that situation either.
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While I cannot speak on behalf of all teachers, here is what I believe will happen.
Teachers will begin by setting kids aside, those that speak English and those that do not. Then again, those that can read English, and those that cannot, and so on.
When are teachers going to have time to teach? They will spend the major part of the day managing and attempting to communicate instruction of where each student should or should not be.
In my opinion, segregation is a painful, stressful, hurtful and demeaning to people, and isn’t this going to demean, hurt and frustrate people? Not only the students feel this way, so will the teachers. Everyone will feel as if though they have failed.
What a concept? So if I were a child in this position, I would rather be inside an ESL classroom, where I feel valued, supported and guided until I am ready to integrate myself with the rest of the world. By then, I will have met my goal of learning English. Teachers will have also met their goal ? teaching.
As a Latina parent and a registered voter, I am the first to say, we must learn English, but the way in which it is going to happen should not take away from anyone else’s opportunity to learn or teach. Amendment 31 does just that.
How does it exactly do that? How are the other children, those that already speak, read and write English (this includes all children born and raised in the U.S. and those that have been in school from day one, learning only English), affected by this amendment? Let me begin with one selfish example.
My children are fully bilingual, and as a result they oftentimes end up being the ?translator? or ?teacher? to some of the children that are currently learning a second language. Thanks to bilingual, ESL and ELL instruction classes, the need for my children to have to translate or teach a lesson to their friends is minimal and a pleasant learning experience.
This will not be the case once a student has gone through a 9-month (one school year) immersion program, as proposed by Amendment 31. Teachers in the regular classroom will be required to teach English only, without the current support of a classroom aide.
Amendment 31 states that no ELL, ESL or any other type of bilingual support will be allowed in the regular classroom. How will the teacher be able to effectively communicate with ALL of his or her students? The valuable one-on-one time required for ALL student success, will be minimized.
Teacher frustration levels will rise, and as I stated before, classroom management will become more difficult. The teacher’s focus will then be on managing the classroom rather than on instruction. This will be the teacher’s cry for added support.
Currently, although never enough, teachers have at least some classroom support from ELL aids and volunteers. These classroom aides help more than just second language learners. They help the teacher and they work with all students that need an extra hand. I can say this from experience. I have been an aide myself.
Now on the legal issue, I can honestly say that once parents begin suing teachers (because it will happen), we will be facing a teacher shortage. Then who faces the consequences? That’s right, our kids do.
Class sizes will get larger, once again, reducing valuable teaching time away from our kids. Are we, as parents, ready to be in the classroom on a day-to-day basis to ensure our child is getting the best education?
As a parent, I would like nothing more, but the fact remains that I have to work and that I will do as much as I can to help my children at home. We trust our teachers and our schools, and when we disagree with them, we have the right to dispute and argue. We have a choice.
If Amendment 31 is passed, we will not have that choice, will have to deal with the situation at a very high price: our children’s education. Are we ready to pay that price?
I, for one, am not ready to make my children lose out on the best education possible. Right now, I still have a choice and I intend to keep it that way.
I will vote no on Amendment 31.