Parents of Immigrant Children Must Help Shoulder Language Burden

by Christopher Paslay


Last Sunday, 200 parents of non-English speaking families gathered in a South Philadelphia church to complain to district officials that they wanted more bilingual accommodations in schools. 


Although I’m a committed educator, I admit I feel a pang of anger when I hear parents of immigrant children complaining about the lack of language services.  It’s not that I don’t want foreign born children to get a quality education, it’s just that their parent’s attitude of entitlement is a bit frustrating.


It’s almost as if their status as immigrants gives them a free pass: They’re held accountable to a different standard because the school district is mandated by law to accommodate a foreign born student’s every linguistic whim. 


The tragic part is, the Philadelphia School District’s promise to provide bilingual services to all immigrant families is completely unrealistic.  According to research complied by the Philadelphia Public School Notebook, there are currently over 12,000 foreign born students in city schools who speak over 50 languages. 


Further data shows that only 11 percent of these children will ever reach the level of proficiency in English and successfully exit district ESOL programs.


The Philadelphia School District’s resources are just too limited to accommodate every immigrant with a language deficiency.  The burden of teaching English to foreign born children must not rest solely with city schools—it must be shared by everyone in the community—social service agencies, churches, and by the parents of the children themselves. 


For non-English speaking families to stand idly by and wait for public schools to kowtow to their every need is foolish and irresponsible.  Parents of foreign born children must help shoulder the burden and not only learn English themselves, but pass the language on to their children at an early age.