Original URL: http://www.bayarea.com/mld/cctimes/living/education/5530929.htm
Bilingual classes now also eligible for grant

Posted on Tue, Apr. 01, 2003

A San Francisco Superior Court judge has ordered the state to stop excluding teachers of non-native English speaking children from the state's Reading First grant program.

The preliminary injunction last week directs the state to make the $133 million grant program available to teachers and schools with bilingual classes. On its Web site, the state had previously said the grants applied to English-only classrooms.

Deborah Escobedo, lead attorney for the education rights group Multicultural, Education, Training and Advocacy, called the ruling a "significant victory."

"Basically what (the state) was asking schools to do was dismantle their bilingual programs," Escobedo said. "That directly discriminated against those children who don't speak English."

State officials were not available to comment Monday.

Reading First, part of the $900 million No Child Left Behind federal education reform bill, is a national initiative aimed at improving reading in kindergarten through third-grade classrooms.

The grant awards between $6,000 and $8,000 to primary grade classrooms in some of the state's poorest schools. The money is used primarily for teacher literacy training.

In Contra Costa and Alameda counties, 86 schools in Antioch, Mt. Diablo, Pittsburg, West Contra Costa, Oakland, San Lorenzo and Hayward school districts are eligible for the grant.

Only West Contra Costa was awarded grant dollars in the first round of the program.

Marco Gonzales, principal at Cesar Chavez Elementary School in Richmond, said the court's ruling will give his teachers -- including the 11 who teach bilingual classes -- the same professional development opportunities.

Pittsburg school board president Ruben Rosalez said the court's ruling will bring the grant program in line with state law.

"It's one of those premises in education, training for teachers is good for all kids," Rosalez said. "We want to make sure everyone has equal opportunity for the training."