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Six Latino parents addressed the District 65 School Board on June 18, asserting they should have the right to enroll their students in English-only classes and they should not be forced into the Two-Way Immersion (TWI) program. On two occasions, another 25 Latino parents stood in their support.
Fabian Delgado said he placed his daughter in a private school because his daughter was placed in a bilingual program at District 65, in which his daughter would be taught Spanish. “I used to believe in a bilingual program,” he said, “but my own feelings tell me they should learn English as a first language and Spanish as the second one.”
He said he has heard that children with a Latino name are usually just taken to the bilingual program. “I think it should be up to the parent if they want their kids to learn English or Spanish.”
“We are worried about our kids’ education,” said Lenor Rojas. “English is the language of success, But we have trouble getting our kids into the English education.”
“I have seen parents crying and kids crying because these kids cannot get into the English-only classes because they don’t have space for English-only.”
Ana Becerra said, “I feel we as parents have the right to choose if our children should be educated in English, bilingual or Spanish. … We should have the right for our children to be in an all English class and not be forced into making our children be in the bilingual program.”
Nancy Cardenas, a rising senior at Evanston Township High School, said the issue was of “great concern” to the Latino community. “The TWI program of District 65 has become an unequal education system in Evanston,” she said. “Not only is the Latino student automatically placed in the program, but the Latino student is lacking an English education in Evanston. They’re teaching more Spanish than English.”
The comments took some Board members by surprise.
Board member Richard Rykhus said, “This is an issue I had not heard of until a neighbor approached me a few days ago and shared with me some specifics.” He said the School Board had recently decided to look at the TWI program and the impact it was having on student achievement. “While we are looking at that program, part of what we can do is look at how children are placed into that program.”
“I have to say I am surprised by this because I haven’t heard that this was a concern,” said Board member Tracy Quattrocki. “But I’m glad you raised it. I think it means that as a Board we need to get at the heart of what this tension is – perception or otherwise – what’s going on with the TWI program.”
Board President Katie Bailey agreed. She said the issue would be put on the Board’s calendar for discussion at a subsequent meeting.
Superintendent Hardy Murphy said, “Apparently what we’re hearing, guys, is that parents feel like they have no choice. And we know for a fact that they’re able to waive program services and go into the English immersion part of it.
“But you know, what the fact of the matter is that we might look at it. It is possible that as people are sitting at the table, people don’t quite understand that they have not just a choice in front of them, but we expect them to assert what they want for their children.
“We may have to look at that process,” Dr. Murphy said.