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Expansion of dual immersion programs in jeopardy

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SALT LAKE CITY — Expansion plans for Utah's dual-immersion language program are in danger. A lack of funding could keep new schools and new languages from coming in the fall.

Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, says the Utah legislature has failed to prioritize funding for the new dual immersion language programs.

Programs facing possible cancellation
Alpine School District
    Alpine Elementary- Chinese
    Riverview Elementary- Chinese
    Rocky Mountain Elementary- Portuguese
Box Elder School District
    Foothill Elementary- Chinese
Charter Schools
    American Leadership Academy- Spanish
    Renaissance Academy- Chinese
Granite Schol District
    Valley Crest Elementary- Spanish
Iron School District
    East Elementary- Spanish
Jordan School District
    Herriman Elementary- Spanish
    Welby Elementary- Spanish
Murray School District
    Parkside Elementary- Portuguese
Park City School District
    Jeremy Ranch Elementary- French
    McPolin Elementary- Spanish
Provo School District
    Lakeview Elementary- German
Washington County School District
    Arrowhead Elementary- Chinese
    Horizon Elementary- Chinese
    Three Falls Elementary- Chinese
    Hurricane Elementary- Spanish
    Red Mountain- Spanish
Weber School District
    Bates Elementary- Chinese
    Freedom Elementary- Spanish
Davis School District
    Farmington Jr High- Spanish
    Legacy Jr. High- Spanish

The programs call for students to learn in one language for half of the day, and a second language the other half of the day.

Stephenson says if the $800,000 appropriation is not made, 23 planned new programs will be gone.

"We are a national leader in dual-immersion and I hate to see it canceled for these first-graders. Because this is not that they are put on a waiting list, they are put on a deny list. If you don't start this in first grade you don't get to start this at all," Stephenson said.

"Most of these schools have waiting lists now. So that's why we are also continuing expansion. This is market demand, and we are trying to give the ability to open more schools," said Gregg Roberts, world language specialist with the Utah State Office of Education.

State educators were looking forward to expanding the program in the fall. Not only are new Chinese, French and Spanish programs supposed to come on board, but the Murray and Alpine districts plan to add Portuguese, and the Provo school district is going to add German.

Roberts says state business leaders determined which languages would be the most important.

"Utah students will be competing for jobs against students from Asia, Europe, Latin America, and to be able to do that, Utah students need to be multi-lingual and globally competent," Roberts said.

The goal is to have 100 dual-immersion programs with 30,000 students enrolled by 2014. Currently there are 57 schools, where most of the bi-lingual students have reached third grade. If the legislative funding comes through, in the fall there will be about 80 programs and 14,000 students enrolled.

View a state promotional video about dual immersion programs here:

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Mary Richards


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