The importance of the Spanish language in our schools by lara nations
Lara and her family
The Anchorage School District is currently grappling with a budget shortfall of approximately $68 million next year. As a state, we have not prioritized public education. The Alaska Legislature sets the amount allocated to school districts per student, called the Base Student Allocation, by legislation. The governor then either signs off on the bill or vetoes it. Over the past seven years, our state has increased the BSA only once. That was a problem before the recent rise in inflation, during which prices of all kinds of goods and services increased drastically. ASD is not insulated from those price increases, yet the state has not increased the BSA to keep up with inflation.
As a result, the school board has difficult decisions to make in order to bring its budget in line with the actual funding available. One of the proposed cuts is to the language immersion programs, including eliminating or drastically reducing the Spanish immersion program. Cuts to the Spanish immersion program would be devastating for Anchorage and would not do much to solve the budget gap. The Spanish program costs only about $600-700 more per student per school year than traditional programs; that is also the lowest cost of any of the language immersion programs. This program is simply not that expensive.
Cutting the immersion programs is also a significant equity issue. The Spanish immersion program is the only dual-language program in ASD, which means that 50% of the children in the program come from families who have at least one native Spanish speaker. It offers a level of inclusivity to parents and students that is so important. Students who are new to the United States and do not yet speak English have the ability to participate and be successful from their first day in our schools. In addition, parents can participate in their children’s education and our school community to a much greater degree because our teachers and staff speak Spanish. That leads to better student outcomes and a deeper sense of community.
In Alaska, nearly eight percent of our residents were born outside the United States, and another nine percent have at least one immigrant parent. The second-largest immigrant group in Alaska is from Mexico. As we all know, we also have many other community members from different Spanish-speaking countries. Having a Spanish immersion program makes our community more united and inclusive. Learning Spanish helps our children connect to their heritage and family history. It fosters a sense of belonging. It also prepares our children for success in life. ASD often touts the diversity of our student population. However, if diversity truly matters to ASD, we need to make it more than a talking point. The Spanish immersion program enriches our children, school district, and community. We all need to let our school board, state legislators, and governor know that cuts to the Spanish immersion program are devastating to our community and cannot be allowed.
PROUDLY POWERED BY SOL DE MEDIANOCHE NEWS, LLC. Sol de Medianoche is a monthly publication of the Latino community in Anchorage, Alaska