This story comes from the Schools and Communities United “Fulfill the Promise” Report.
Claudia Calvario was born in Sayula, Mexico and came to Milwaukee when she was seven years old. She did not speak a word of English and had no legal papers.
Claudia is the first in her family to attend college. She was the valedictorian at ALAS, an MPS school where students learn in both English and Spanish, in 2014.
A twist of fate brought Claudia to ALAS. When it came time to choose a high school, she went to a fair at Grand Avenue Mall. ALAS was the only school at the fair that was bilingual. “My mother said, ‘That’s the school for us,’” she remembers.
This fall ALAS became part of a reinvigorated bilingual program at South Division High School. It has the largest bilingual high school program in Wisconsin.
MPS is known nationally for bilingual programs that encourage students to maintain their Spanish while learning English.
The district provides bilingual education to almost 5,900 students at 24 schools, and offers English Language Learner (ELL) services to almost 5,200 students.
Some 15 languages are spoken at South Division, from Hmong to Burmese, Arabic, Somali and Karen. MPS enrolls students speaking 49 languages.
Recognizing the legal rights of English Language Learners is one of several areas where public schools differ significantly from private schools. There is, for instance, no state law requiring bilingual or ELL services at voucher schools.
In Milwaukee, as is true throughout the country, student demographics are changing dramatically; by 2050, whites will be a minority in the United States. As demographics reshape the United States, the role of public education in building
a multiracial democracy is increasingly essential.
If MPS schools are handed over to private third party operators through the Senator Alberta Darling and Representative Dale Kooyenga’s Takeover bill, then these newly created charter schools would not be required by law to have bilingual education programs since they would be privately run. We must make sure that MPS schools stay in the hands of our democratically elected school board, who are accountable to the people of Milwaukee through elections and who have shown to value bilingual education in our schools.
The Wisconsin Association of Bilingual Education has already started to organize to fight the Takeover as well preserve bilingual education in Milwaukee. Join them!