Win for bilingual education
Chicago Sun-Times
May 2, 2008


FEDERAL RULING | Principals must answer probing questions,CST-NWS-skul02.article

In what some hailed as "a victory" for kids who are still learning English, a federal judge Thursday ordered 100 principals to answer written questions about what kind of services they are providing to hundreds of Chicago public school students in bilingual education programs.

The ruling came after federal and civil rights attorneys demanded action on a 2007 report indicating some English language learners -- most of them Latino -- have been taught in hallways or on auditorium stages, pulled from class to act as translators, or denied special education services.

U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras ordered federal attorneys to select, by May 15, which 100 CPS principals must complete depositions that will include questions about the number of English language learners in their schools, what kind of services those students are receiving, and what kind of qualifications their teachers hold.

"I think the judge's ruling is a victory for English-language learners because we can finally find out if, in fact, these children are receiving the services they are entitled to,'' said Ricardo Meza of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, one of several friends of the court in the case.

Also Thursday, Kocoras denied a CPS motion seeking to vacate sections of a desegregation agreement involving English language learners, or ELLs. CPS attorneys contended the provisions created the "possibility of unending litigation'' and were unnecessary because the state already monitors ELL services.

Harvey Grossman of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois called it "shocking'' that CPS would try to get out of the ELL provisions. He said they followed "decades'' of inadequate ELL services.