Language funding hits snag

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Educators agree that children are better equipped to learn a second language at an early age.

Olga Biancheri, a Spanish teacher at Stevens Creek Elementary, uses hand signs to teach a first-grade class the alphabet during class. Gov. Sonny Perdue reallocated $1.6 million in state funding for this school year so that every elementary school in the state will receive $1,200 for foreign language instruction, but disagreements over its use has kept it from being allocated.  Jim Blaylock/Staff
Jim Blaylock/Staff
Olga Biancheri, a Spanish teacher at Stevens Creek Elementary, uses hand signs to teach a first-grade class the alphabet during class. Gov. Sonny Perdue reallocated $1.6 million in state funding for this school year so that every elementary school in the state will receive $1,200 for foreign language instruction, but disagreements over its use has kept it from being allocated.

However, the most effective way to fund and implement foreign language programs in Georgia's elementary schools is still being worked out.

"It comes down to time and money," said Lauren Williams, the Columbia County school system associate superintendent of student learning.

Gov. Sonny Perdue reallocated almost $1.6 million in state general funds for elementary school foreign language programs in the 2007-08 budget.

Under this plan, approximately $1,200 in funding for foreign language materials was earmarked for every elementary school in the state.

However, none of the schools has received that money yet.

"The money has not gone out because there is still kind of a dispute between the governor's office and the Legislature about how that money should be assigned. Once they've resolved their differences, we will distribute that money in some method," said Dana Tofig, a state Department of Education spokesman.

He also said there is no guarantee that this funding will be allocated again next year.

Penny Jackson, the Richmond County school system curriculum coordinator, said school administrators are waiting until they have the money in hand before they make plans to implement new foreign language programs.

"I believe foreign language is extremely important. Obviously, the younger you do it, the better kids adopt it for it to be successful. But it does take some planning and some research," she said.

Lake Forest Hills and Jenkins-White are the only Richmond County elementary schools that offer foreign language instruction.

Dr. Williams said schools must consider if core classes and other programs such as art, music and physical education would suffer if foreign language was added to the curriculum.

She said compensation totals about $55,000 per teacher, which would cost the school system almost $1.9 million in salaries and benefits alone if each of its 17 elementary schools had two foreign language teachers.

"It would be very costly if the state won't be a player in it," Dr. Williams said.

Stevens Creek, the lone elementary school in Columbia County that has a foreign language program, was one of only 29 elementary schools in the state that received funding last year - $233,839 - for its program.

The PTO and school board also contributed funding.

Principal Michelle Paschal said administrators are working on plans to expand foreign language classes to other elementary schools.

"We realize that the board cannot continue to fund something for one school," she said.

Reach Betsy Gilliland at (706) 868-1222, ext. 113, or betsy.gilliland@augustachronicle.com.

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LadyCisback
4
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LadyCisback 09/24/07 - 07:51 am
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Foreign language education

Foreign language education here in the south is never appreciated. I say to all of the foreign language teachers take your skills to another place where you will be appreciated.

LittleLady
1
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LittleLady 09/24/07 - 09:09 am
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Foreign language program

Foreign language program should be funded by parents and private funds. Those of you who are passionate about foreign language program, show us how passionate you are. Donate your own money toward the program, and volunteer your own time to teach instead of asking taxpayer funds.

Public education funds should be spent on core subjects. I want to see a better results for all the money we are pouring in to the public education system now.

patriciathomas
42
Points
patriciathomas 09/24/07 - 05:26 pm
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Well said LittleLady. The

Well said LittleLady. The current public school record for educating elementary school students doesn't need any more scholastic strain. It needs better production within the parameters currently set. If parents wish a foreign language taught to their children, let them work something out with a tutor. A group effort should be less expensive and more effective then a government solution. Source targeting, so to speak.

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