Monthly Archives: July 2011

Union County, North Carolina, Eliminates Elementary School Level Spanish Program

Mark DiBiasio for unioncountyweekly.com, June 10, 2011:

In a unanimous vote, the Union County School Board eliminated 26 teacher positions by dissolving the elementary school level Spanish language program. A budget savings of approximately $1.3 million is expected, even with a promise by the school administration to find jobs for the displaced teachers.

“Union County children, some who are now adults in a changing world, have been beneficiaries of elementary school exposure to a foreign language and culture.” said Paula McGuire, a teacher at Sandy Ridge Elementary, who read a joint letter from Spanish language teachers, “We feel it’s a shame to let this program end because a temporary state level revenue problem.”

“We understand that if this program does not provide what it needs to provide, we can work collaboratively to fine tune it, rather than sacrifice our children’s future.” McGuire said during public comments. She spoke of the need for children to learn the positive aspects of a foreign language and culture to blunt the negative Hispanic stereotyping so prevalent today.

UCPS Superintendent, Dr. Ed Davis reflected on budget issues during his report regular report to School Board members, noting the increased cuts in discretionary funding. “Right now, things are too much up in the air to give you a definite recommendation.” Davis said, “We have to wait to see if the Governor vetoes or not.”

“What concerns me is the $11.5 million cut in [Senate-House approved budget] discretionary funding.” Davis said, “We can offset that somewhat with the $7.5 million in Edu-job funding, but that money won’t be there next year.”

The Educations Jobs fund was a $10 billion Federal program that provided monies to local school districts to retain existing staff, hire new staff, restore reductions in salaries or implement salary increases. North Carolina was awarded $298 million in Edu-job funds last September 2010. Union County chose to not it utilize the funds until this year, well within the Federal requirements to spend the monies by September 2012.

“We estimate the next years [budget] cuts will be $13.5 million” Davis said, “but going forward, I do want to move on the recommendation of the elimination of the elementary Spanish program.”

“We already know we have a $8.5 million budget cut and that is going to effect class size” Davis said, “and class sizes have grown all across the board.”

“I met with the Spanish teachers, I think they understand the reasons for the cuts, they may not agree with it, but they understand it” Davis continued, “I want you [the board] to know that elementary school principals are all on board with this, [eliminating the Spanish language program] as are the all Budget Development committees.”

“Even though Ed Davis is taking responsibility for this recommendation and decision,” Davis said, “I did not make this decision in a vacuum and I didn’t make it alone, there was a lot of input over the course of the year.”

The only Board member to speak on the motion to eliminate the program was Carolyn Lowder. “I requested a couple of meetings ago that this board make a public statement about these budget cuts” Lowder said, “it is damaging to our school system and to our children, but this board declined to do that.”

I must say, that I feel forced to support Dr. Davis’ recommendation simply because of the stark reality with what we have to deal with.” Lowder said, “but to say that’s not hurting children, I can not say that. To say that it’s [budget cuts] are not hurting our system, I can not say that and this is the first public demonstration of the damage that being done”.

“My heart goes out to you folks that are sitting out there tonight, your jobs are on the line” Lowder said, “we don’t have taxing authority, we have to go to the Commissioners ask for funding and I think we should have been far more aggressive in doing that, but that was a board decision.”

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Navy Makes Cuts to Foreign Language Pay List

Erik Slavin for Stars and Stripes, July 2, 2011:

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Proficient speakers of Japanese, Korean and four other languages will be receiving hundreds of dollars less in their Navy paychecks, beginning this month.

Sailors will also no longer receive Foreign Language Proficiency Pay for knowing Haitian Creole, Vietnamese, Cantonese and Amoy Chinese as of Friday, according to Navy documents.

The languages are now considered “enduring” and “prevalent in the force,” meaning they are still strategically important, but that the numbers of speakers in the Navy exceeds mission needs.

Several European languages, Thai and a few others fall under the same classifications.

Only career linguists, sailors assigned to a job coded for the language and expeditionary forces, will still receive extra pay for prevalent languages, according to a May 13 instruction signed by Vice Adm. Mark Ferguson, chief of Navy personnel.

Navy Personnel Command officials were not available this week for further comment.

Proficiency pay is awarded based on reading, listening and speaking scores, and varies between $100 and $500 per month. Expert speakers in two critical languages can earn a sailor up to $1,000 per month in extra pay.

Despite the removal of the six languages from the special-pay category, education officials say sailors should continue taking the annual proficiency tests.

“We never know when another contingency issue or another conflict will result in the need for their language skills,” said Dean Moore, Navy College director at Yokosuka Naval Base.

Although figures weren’t immediately available on the number of Japanese test takers at Yokosuka, college officials said that more sailors have already taken language tests in 2011 than they did during 2009 or 2010.

Languages on the proficiency pay list can change at any time, but they are based largely on the service’s strategic language list, which identifies languages the Defense Department considers important to national security through 2020. In May, the Navy’s list reclassified several languages under three categories: immediate, emerging and enduring.

Nearly all of the immediate and emerging languages are African, Middle Eastern or Asian, though none are from East Asia.

The Air Force, Army and Marine Corps also maintain language bonus pay systems, which vary according to their particular needs.

slavine@pstripes.osd.mil

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