Spanish-speaking students are flooding into an Illinois school district so fast that teachers who educate in English only are being involuntarily transferred, and they believe there will come a time when they no longer will have a job.
“I know what the trend is, and it’s not looking good,” Valerie Goranson told the Chicago Tribune. “Even if my job was saved this year, what about next year?”
She has twice lost a teaching assignment in the Waukegan district because she doesn’t speak Spanish, she said. Last year, after teaching 5th grade at North Elementary for six years, district officials moved her to Clark Elementary to make room for a Spanish-speaking teacher at North.
Now she says it’s happening again.
“I can understand why they are a little nervous,” Mary Lamping, the district’s chief academic officer, said. “If we don’t have an English-speaking population to serve, then we’re not going to need English-speaking teachers.”
The situation harkens to a Florida dispute on which WND has reported. There a South Florida businessman says he’s being evicted from his office space because he does not speak Spanish.
Tom McKenna, 51, says he faces a move-out date of Aug. 31 from his location where he’s run Seacoast Water Care for the past seven years, and doubts he can stay there.
“I don’t think I’ve got any choice [but to move],” he told WND Wednesday. “[The landlord] wants to make my life a living hell.”
A high-profile lawyer known for winning million-dollar judgments had offered to assist, but McKenna indicated he was having trouble coming up with a $10,000 retainer fee.
In Goranson’s case, officials from Waukegan School District 60 say the reassignments are the result of a districtwide restructuring, not simply an accommodation to Spanish-language students.
The newspaper reported Waukegan appears to be the first in the Chicago area where such alarms have been raised. Officials say the Chicago district’s immigrant population hasn’t changed significantly, even though Latino immigrant numbers are rising in the suburbs.
Waukegan reports a 25 percent hike in its Spanish-speaking student population since 2000, and other suburbs are following closely behind.
“Other communities will face this problem,” said Linda Asma, who teaches 5th grade at Oakdale Elementary in Waukegan, but expects one monolingual teacher at her school to be reassigned soon.
“I’d give it less than 10 years,” she said.
So far, the district said, officials have been able to find new classrooms for teachers who have been moved involuntarily. But they confirm bilingual classrooms have jumped in number from 124 in 2003 to 153 in 2006. The total classroom number grew by 39, from 296 to 335, and 29 of those are bilingual.
District officials cite a state law from 1973 requiring a bilingual teacher if there are 20 or more students who speak the same foreign language.
The North Elementary principal, Angel Figueroa, said Spanish instruction helps students learn better and faster.
“Of course they need to learn English, but they also need to know science and math,” Figueroa said.
But teachers suggest learning those subjects while they also are learning English is best.
“We have kids from China, Belize, Serbia, everywhere, and they catch on and end up doing well,” said Linette Oliver, a teacher at Clark. She said she has been reassigned to teaching 2nd grade because her 1st grade class is becoming bilingual. “I don’t understand why we can’t do that for any child, no matter where they are from.”
As WND reported earlier this month, McKenna has become the focus of national debates over illegal immigration and property rights.
The businessman said his landlord at the Ellendale Center in Stuart, Fla., wants him out of his office space by the end of the month, in order to “complete [his] vision of converting the center to quality tenants serving the Spanish need in the area.”