MALDEF Continues to Protect the Rights of 43,000 Children Learning English in Chicago Public Schools
March 16, 2009 – MALDEF anxiously awaits a federal court ruling regarding whether the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) will be released from a 29-year-old desegregation consent decree in United States v. Chicago Public Schools. After nearly a three-week hearing that ended in February 2009, MALDEF attorneys presented closing arguments urging a federal judge not to declare CPS “Unitary,” thus allowing CPS to be released from the consent decree.
MALDEF Midwest Regional Counsel Ricardo Meza stated that opposition to Unitary Status “was based upon expert testimony, documents and witness statements demonstrating that CPS failed to provide ELL students – the majority of which are Latino – with court-ordered services to help children overcome language barriers.” According to MALDEF Staff Attorney Anita Maddali, “this decision will impact over 43,000 Latino children trying to learn English in Chicago.”
Prior to the 2009 hearing, MALDEF’s Midwest Regional Office held meetings to inform the Latino community of the significance of the case. During the meetings, MALDEF staff encouraged parents of ELLs to submit statements regarding their experience with CPS’s bilingual program. Before the hearing, MALDEF attorneys also filed court papers asking the judge to publish notice of the hearing in Spanish language newspapers, which the court allowed.
During the hearing, one student described how she tutored another student who did not speak English because there were no bilingual services at the school. MALDEF attorneys introduced the testimony of a parent who described the months that her son went without any bilingual education services, despite the fact that her son was entitled to receive the services under the law and pursuant to the consent decree. After the hearing, MALDEF submitted a legal brief asking the court to not release CPS from the consent decree and to appoint an expert to help make certain that children receive the services they are entitled to receive under the law.