About thirty West Linn – Wilsonville School District parents protested before the June 29th school board meeting at West Linn High School over the suspension of the one year old Spanish immersion program. A few also spoke briefly to the school board. I was there briefly.
These parents are making the good fight for quality
education programs for their children, and for immersion foreign language
programs to prepare more of our next generations for the global economy and
national security environment of the 21st century. I’ve previously
posted my thoughts on the shameful action of the school board in my post “Dumbing
down the curriculum in West Linn – Wilsonville’ (here). I can’t add much to that post as to the narrow
visioned stupidity of the school board action. From talking to these parents, I
now have a much strong sense of just how much they believe they were lied to by
their school district staff and others. They believe the decision to suspend
the Spanish immersion program was based on faulty and misleading data.
In an opinion column “Spanish immersion not presented fairly” by Amy Murphy published in the West Linn Tidings, some of the faulty and misleading data is specifically explained (here):
The board will tell you it was due to costs and the $3.1 million loss of revenue from the Option Levy shortfall. They stated that the district is going to have to cut 30 staff positions and implied that the Spanish classes were they primary reason this was so. At the meeting on June 7, deputy Superintendent Jane Stickney claimed that SI classes cost over $300,000 in their first year. After SI parents cried foul and asked for proof of the costs, Stickney and Superintendent Roger Woehl backpedaled and claimed Stickney’s figures may have been too high. Woehl sent out e-mails to all primary school parents stating he would explain the budget process, detail why SI came to the board for consideration, and answer questions about the SI program. If you go to Woehl’s website page to find information on these items you will find the words “coming soon.” The information was never posted. Why did Woehl fail to provide answers to these questions before the board meeting on the 16th? Was he afraid to show how little SI costs? Was he afraid for the public to know how the budget process works?
At the meeting on June 16, Woehl presented a slide with what he claimed to be the “true” costs of SI as $192,860. What he didn’t explain was that $182,000 for an instructional coordinator, teacher, and staff development are costs accrued regardless of whether the class is taught in Spanish or English. This leaves $10,000 in program development costs, and $25,426 in materials costs – half of which were paid for in the 2009/10 budget. Left is $22,713 in actual start-up costs. This is .00035 percent of the district’s $64 million budget, and accounts for .007 percent of the Levy shortfall. SI parents worked quickly to form a 503(c) organization and received pledges over $47,000 to cover the startup costs. Additionally, administrators from local schools who provide SI classes supplied data indicating that SI classes are cost-neutral; SI costs the same as classes taught in English. Did the board really vote to suspend the SI classes over such a small amount of money?
I hope the West Linn – Wilsonville School Board continues the Spanish immersion program. It’s the right action to take for all our futures.