The cost of dual language education has proven too much for at least one local district. The Katy ISD school board voted unanimously this week to end a longtime English-Spanish language immersion program for elementary students. The Two Way Immersion, or TWI program, allowed students in kindergarten through fifth grade to learn in both English and Spanish. The board agreed to phase out the program, with current students allowed to finish it out but no new students entering.
The decision to end the popular program came down ultimately to a couple of factors, starting with cost. The district says the TWI program cost $1.4 million per year, which was originally funded through a federal grant. "That grant ended in 2009, and since then the school district has been supporting, has been sustaining the program," says Claudia Deschamps, Katy ISD spokeswoman. She tells KTRH the other factor was that the program didn't have a wide enough use to justify that large cost. "This particular program only benefited one percent of the (district) population in elementary school," says Deschamps.
Some parents and students were upset with the district's decision to end the TWI program. At least one parent pointed out the $70 million football stadium the district recently opened, as an example of misplaced spending priorities. But Ira Mehlman with the Federation for Immigration Reform (FAIR) believes dual language programs like this are inherently unfair, and another example of the cost of immigration. "It is money that is not being spent for other purposes in Texas, including providing educational opportunities to a lot of other kids in Texas who might need them," says Mehlman. "What impact does it have on another child sitting in a classroom in Houston or the state of Texas, who is not having the resources devoted to his or her needs?"