Delores Millhouse presented a version of this testimony during the public comment portion of the September 22 Board of Education work session. Ms. Millhouse is the co-founder of My Bilingual Child, a parent advocacy group for Spanish Immersion programs in Prince George’s County Public Schools. The views expressed are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools.
by Delores Millhouse
As the co-founder of My Bilingual Child, a parental advocacy group that has advocated very strongly for Spanish Language Immersion programs, I thank you for the broadened program offerings that include Spanish and Chinese Immersion programs. Today, I come before you to recommend that before you approve the PGCPS FY 2018-2023 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), that it is clearly outlined in the plan, the use of underutilized facilities or the construction of new facilities that will accommodate the expansion of language immersion programs, such as Spanish and Chinese, that are not currently budgeted for middle and high school immersion tracks from grades six through twelve.
Your prior commitment to providing more rigorous programing and increased specialty program options has answered the call of many families who felt that their options were relocating and/or enrolling their children into private schools. My Bilingual Child has an army of parents that support our advocacy efforts. These parents and community members are pleased with their decision of enrolling their children in the PGCPS language immersion programs and are working very closely with us to support the administration and BOE decision to ensure the expansion of these programs is successful.
My son is currently enrolled in the first grade at Phyllis E. Williams Spanish Immersion School in District 6. He is enjoying what he calls a new challenge because he is able to learn all of his subjects in Spanish — not just Math and Science, as he did at Capitol Heights Elementary School. He has stressed to me his desire to master Spanish so he can start learning Mandarin and Arabic. Therefore I stand before you to stress the importance of continuing your support of “high-demand” programs to include the expansion of Spanish and Chinese language immersion programs.
During my review of the FY 2018-2023 CIP, I was unable to identify where the administration included details that supported the expansion within the CIP. My recommendation to the Board prior to approval is to:
1. Work with the administration to clearly outline the capital improvement needs associated with the expansion of Spanish and Chinese Immersion elementary programs through middle and high school immersion program tracks.
2. Form a CIP planning committee (administration, BOE, parents, and community members) that focuses on the following:
- Outline how the “Projected School Enrollment” studies impact expanding the language immersion programs through a “Program within a School” model using underutilized schools, making the necessary capital improvements to support the expansion.
- Outline how building new facilities will allow the students to continue their proficiency in their target language through Spanish and Chinese Immersion middle and high school curricula to include International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years and Programs.
My Bilingual Child and our supporters will continue to advocate for the establishment of advanced language immersion tracks, allowing students to continue studying their target languages throughout their entire secondary experience. In keeping in line with the PGCPS strategic goal Academic Excellence, we encourage you to make the alignment more transparent between the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) and strategic plan; solidifying everyone’s commitment to providing “outstanding academic achievements for all students.”
In closing, my belief is education is not a choice! Our children are our future and their success depends on the educational investments we make today.
One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way.
— Frank Smith, psycholinguist.