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FYI: Wesselhoft Is Concerned for Bilingual Students

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Sept. 7, 2007 – An increasingly diverse Virgin Islands population demands greater funding and support for the Territory's Bilingual Education Program, said Senator-at-Large Carmen Wesselhoft.
It was revealed during a Senate hearing that only $350,000 is allocated to serve nearly 800 bilingual students spread out amongst 13 schools.
"This is clearly not enough to provide our young people with the educations that they deserve," she said.
The program not only accommodates the Territory's growing Hispanic population, but also students whose native languages include French, Creole, Chinese and Arabic.
The Committee on Education, Culture and Youth meeting on bilingual education was convened by Senator Liston Davis on Wednesday at the request of Wesselhoft.
"I would like to thank Senator Davis for responding to my call and I am quite sure he is willing to continue to work with me in this area," she said.
Wesselhoft said increasing concerns about the Territory's bilingual students led her to push for the legislative hearing.
Staffing and funding shortages and lack of local training for teachers were among the matters brought forward.
"It is clear we need to devote an entire day just to discussing this issue," she said. "
The senator suggested that parents, the Board of Education and the District Superintendents be included in future meetings.
Wesselhoft said that the entire community has a stake in ensuring that all Virgin Islands children were properly educated and that the Education Department needed to do more to respond to the changing needs of the community. She said the ESL program was also in dire need of greater attention.
The Senator-at-Large noted that she was very impressed by the educators running the Bilingual Education Program.
"Your level of commitment is clear," Wesselhoft said. "I commend you for your dedication."

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