Sitting in a class for University of Wisconsin-Madison’s education program, I had to look at different school districts and what they offered non-English speaking families. I chose Oregon School District, because that’s where I live and where my kids go to school.

I was pretty disappointed. Students who had Verona as a district to study smiled and looked down at us as my group sank into their chairs.

The Oregon School District website offers only English as an option, three sentences on their “English Language” program and the names of three teachers who apparently cover all six schools in the district. Nothing else, that was it. If you were a parent bringing your student into the district, you would have nowhere else to go.

But you may go to Verona. Verona has, according to the 2010 census, roughly the same amount of Hispanic families. Their website and handbook are in Spanish and English, they offer Dual Language Immersion programming in two different languages, Mandarin and Spanish, and they address their goals and funds of education on their webpage. Their Emergent Bilinguals have a community and a school district that supports them, and you can feel that on the website.

Verona’s Dual Language Immersion allows English speaking students, starting in Kindergarten, to be taught in Spanish or Mandarin, becoming bilingual from the beginning of their educational career. Being bilingual is a huge asset for all students, developing and increasing the ability of their brains to think abstractly and creatively.

With all of Oregon School District’s many accomplishments, why hasn’t this been a bigger priority? And where are the funds going that should be allotted to the program?

Teaching our kids to be more globally effective, teaching them another language and ensuring that those Oregonian families that speak another language at home feel included and are equally educated should be a bigger priority.

Please pull it together Oregon Schools. Don’t let Verona outshine us.

Kimi Graff

Village of Oregon