WESTMINSTER : Bilingual Teaching Modification Sought

The Westminster School District will seek permission from the state to revamp the way it teaches students with limited English skills, a divided school board decided Thursday.

Of the district's 9,000 students, about 4,000 have limited English proficiency, officials said. Therefore, by state law, the district is required to employ 90 teachers who have a bilingual certificate or are in training to obtain one.

But district leaders said the requirement is unrealistic, given budget constraints and a limited pool of available bilingual teachers. So officials developed an alternate plan to use English-speaking teachers paired with bilingual aides.

The proposal must be approved by the state Board of Education.

The school board voted 3-2 Thursday to send the proposal to the state for review, possibly in February. Trustees Kathy Stirling Iverson and Nancy Blumenthal voted against sending the document.

"Just as I think the state of California's bilingual [requirements] are out of touch, I think this is out of touch," Iverson said. "I don't think we have the budget for it."

Under the plan, the district would spend an additional $800,000 a year on bilingual aides, officials said.

During a public hearing before the vote, several residents were harshly critical of the plan.

"It's like we're going backward," said resident Larry Luera, whose children attended Westminster schools. Students are more interested in school and less likely to drop out if bilingual teachers are available to help them, Luera said.

"There is no justification for this," said resident Maureena Williams.

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