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Latino community calls on RCSD to not cut bilingual education



Ibero-American Action League and others in Rochester’s Latino community say cuts to bilingual education in the Rochester City School District budget targets an already marginalized population. 

Part of the budget proposal for the 2020-21 school year includes closing the Bilingual Language and Literacy Academy, which serves students displaced from Puerto Rico. 

Julio Saenz, Ibero’s chief communications and development officer, says that thousands of Spanish-speaking families from Puerto Rico came to Rochester after Hurricane Maria and again this winter due to devastating earthquakes. He says they need bilingual education. 

“A lot of those folks didn’t come here with any preparation,” Saenz said. “So, not only do the kids need help learning English, but the parents as well.”

While this is nothing new, Saenz said this has been an ongoing battle that the Latino community has had to fight for a number of years.

An educational gap is already forming ahead of the final budget decision. Beverly Roseborough helps connect Spanish-speaking families and students with educational support at Ibero. 

She says that for the past six weeks, since schools closed due to the coronavirus, many families that receive support from the program she coordinates have been unable to connect with schools due to a language barrier and a lack of response. That disconnect, she said, is putting their education in jeopardy. 

“The kids have been home for a month now, a month and a half almost. You know, that’s terrible,” Roseborough said. 

She says that families who need student support and face a language barrier with their education can reach out to Ibero for assistance.

“We would definitely help in this time during this pandemic to help families get connected because the kids are suffering,” Roseborough said.

In a joint statement, the Ibero-American Action League, La Cumbre, and the Father Laurence Tracey Advocacy Center laid out their demands for the Rochester City School District:

  • Stabilize Bilingual Education

  • We have made progress in this area by hiring a director. We are demanding that the director position is not cut.

  • Newcomer Program for Latina/o Students- Close to 600 students have already arrived in Rochester from Puerto Rico after the devastation of Hurricane Maria and the recent earthquakes. The District needs a permanentK-12 Latina/o newcomer program.

  • If you close the Bilingual Academy, we must ensure the service to our students is happening for our students across the entire district.

  • Strategic Plan for Latina/o Achievement Alignment- It is imperative that we have an aligned plan in Latina/o studies and Bilingual Education. A strategic plan to add structure and direction for both across the district should be created.

  • We demand a strategic plan, engaging the Bilingual Council and all stakeholders from the Latino Community.

Noelle E. C. Evans is an education reporter/producer with a background in documentary filmmaking and education.
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