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Bilingual: Immersion in English opposed

An order to mail every city resident City Council votes on important issues each September was turned down by
a voice vote.


Staff writer
HOLYOKE - The City Council voted 12-3 this week to oppose statewide Ballot Question 2, which if passed would replace bilingual education with a "sheltered English immersion" program.

Sponsored by Ward 1 City Councilor Alejandro Sanchez Jr. and Ward 2 Councilor Diosdado Lopez, the council measure encourages voters to reject the ballot question.

As proposed, the Sanchez-Lopez order stated that teaching all classes in English instead of in a student's native language "would undoubtedly impair his or her learning ability."

Citing "significant improvements" in test scores by bilingual-class students, the order states that "language differences
can impair a child's learning ability and impede his or her educational progress."

During debate late Tuesday, Lopez predicted that mandatory English immersion could result in more Spanish-speaking students leaving school and being unable to get good jobs.

"If we pass (Question 2), we will see even more dropouts," said Lopez.

But At-large Councilor Kevin A. Jourdain, who voted against the Sanchez-Lopez order, said empirical evidence shows
that English immersion works.

Over the past decade, Jourdain said, bilingual education has not succeeded as many had hoped and said it is time to try another way help students become fluent in English.

"This is something that is at the core of America. It is something we all share - the English language," Jourdain said.

"The status quo is not acceptable because the results are not acceptable," he said.

Also voting "no" on the measure were At-large Councilor John E. Whelihan and Ward 5 Councilor John P. Brunelle.

At-large Councilor Patrick J. Higgins and Ward 3 Councilor Helen F. Norris were absent....

Richard M. Welch, who held the post for more than six years, died Oct. 2. Several would-be replacements are vying for the post, which expires in January 2004. The City Council is expected to vote on Welch's replacement by December.

David Reid can be reached at dreid@union-news.com


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