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Latest Casualty of NYC School Budget Cuts: City’s Only Russian Dual-Language Program to Be Closed

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New York  (Wednesday, May 27, 2009)

Latest Casualty of NYC School Budget Cuts: City’s Only Russian Dual-Language Program to Be Closed

Joint Statement of Ms. Chung-Wha Hong, Executive Director, New York Immigration Coalition, and
Vladimir Epshteyn, Executive Director, Metropolitan Russian-American Parents Association:

The New York City Department of Education and P.S. 200 in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, are planning to shut down that school’s Russian dual-language program – the only such program in the city – due to funding cuts. We are urging the DOE and the school’s principal to reconsider this decision and preserve the program.

The program is extremely popular with parents and has yielded impressive results for both the immigrant schoolchildren who are learning English as well as the native-English-speaking students who join the program to learn Russian.

Parents appreciate that the program helps their kids learn more than one language, making them more competitive in today’s global economy. Many families also feel it is important for their children to learn the language of their forebears, which helps preserve ties to their culture and history.

The decision to eliminate this program impacts the entire school system by decreasing the diversity of programs offered by the Department of Education. Out of 82 dual-language programs in the city, this is the only one serving the Russian-speaking community.

Last year, the city sought to broaden the options available to English language learners (ELLs), awarding $7 million in ELL Incentive Grants to schools to create new ELL programs, including dual-language programs. This year, however, these grants may be eliminated, potentially devastating ELL programs in 110 schools.

Preserving such programs is a critically important way to remedy the dropout crisis facing English language learners. Currently, fewer than one in ten students who enter ninth grade as an ELL will graduate with a Regents diploma, and this number is only getting worse. Programs like the dual-language model offer innovative ways to help ELL students become proficient in English before they transition into middle and high schools. Once they become proficient, these former ELLs have a higher graduation rate than the city average. It is essential that these proven programs for ELL success be expanded rather than eliminated.

We urge the DOE to reinstate the Russian dual-language program at P.S. 200, and preserve ELL programs throughout the city’s schools, recognizing that multilingual and multicultural education is highly effective in helping students succeed.

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