Should the Meriden school system look to Puerto Rico as a possible source of bilingual teachers? Considering what New Haven’s school board is doing, it’s an idea that might be worth looking into.
New Haven sent a delegation to the financially troubled island to look for bilingual (Spanish-English) teachers who want to seek opportunity elsewhere. The U.S. territory (Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens) is bankrupt, with $70 billion in debt, or roughly $20,000 for every man, woman and child on the island. With a population of less than 3.7 million and severe economic problems — including an unemployment rate nearly triple that on the mainland — Puerto Rico is planning to close 184 schools.
Early this year, the people voted overwhelmingly in favor of statehood, but only Congress can establish a new state, and that seems unlikely at this time.
A look at several online staffing sites shows quite a few posts for bilingual teachers in Connecticut municipalities, including Meriden. Stamford, Hartford and New Britain stand out on these sites, but if demand exceeds supply — and New Haven is looking to avoid paying a premium for bilingual teachers — Puerto Rico might be a good place to look, because teachers in a category that’s hard to fill may command higher salaries.
The Elm City, like much of the state, is facing its own budget woes. On top of the midyear cuts in state aid last year, there is uncertainty about what will be in the coming state budget, which is still in flux. Meanwhile, New Haven’s Spanish-speaking school population continues to grow. According to the New Haven Independent, that city’s delegation to the island signed up 43 qualified teachers, despite a $50 application fee.
In the Meriden system, 14.6 percent of students are categorized as English learners. For the state overall, that figure is 6.4 percent.
The Meriden school system offers a District-Wide Bilingual Education Program at Hooker and Hanover elementary schools, Lincoln Middle School and Maloney High School. An English for Speakers of Other Languages Program is available at Barry, Franklin, Hale, Pulaski, Putnam and Sherman elementary schools, Washington Middle School, and Platt and Maloney high schools.
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