SALT LAKE CITY -- Davis School District plans to go forward with a dual language immersion program at two junior high schools this fall, even though the Legislature may not be able to fund it.
Davis plans to offer its Spanish immersion program to seventh-graders attending Farmington and Legacy junior highs, said Christopher Williams, spokesman for the district. Seventh-graders coming from Eagle Bay and Sand Springs elementary schools have participated in a Spanish immersion program since kindergarten.
Statewide, 17 schools have dual immersion Chinese programs, nine have dual immersion French programs, and 31 schools offer Spanish dual immersion programs, according to the Office of Education.
But the executive appropriations committee did not approve $800,000 needed for the programs to expand, said Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper.
If funding is not found for the growth in the program, Davis, Weber and Box Elder schools will either have to find funding from other sources or eliminate several of their existing language immersion programs.
Williams said the Davis district will offer the programs at the junior high schools, even though it will not receive the $10,000 each school needs to buy books, materials and for teacher training.
Davis School District has 1,700 students learning math, reading and writing in Chinese, Spanish and French at nine elementary schools. It has had a dual language immersion program for the past seven years, Williams said.
Utah has 57 programs, said Mark Peterson, spokesman for the state Office of Education.
The state was able to offer the programs because of federal grants, which have been cut, he said.
Rep. Ronda Rudd Menlove, R-Garland, said legislators did not learn of the cuts until late in the session.
Gov. Gary Herbert and state Superintendent of Schools Larry Shumway had both set a goal to have 100 programs and 30,000 students enrolled by 2015, Peterson said.
That goal now looks doubtful with funding not available for the growth.
"It's amazing so many parents want to put their children in a dual language immersion program," Stephenson said.
Children can learn a second language more easily than adolescents and adults, he said. Also, those in the dual language immersion programs have scored higher on tests than their counterparts, and having a workforce that can speak many languages is essential to Utah's economy.
In Weber School District, Uintah Elementary offers a Chinese immersion program, and Majestic Elementary offers Spanish. The district had planned to add Chinese at Bates Elementary and Spanish at Freedom Elementary.
Nate Taggart, the district's community relations director, said the program has been very successful.
"Parents and students were looking forward to having two additional dual immersion opportunities in the district. If funding is not found, many will be disappointed."
Box Elder School District Superintendent Ron Wolff said even though "families are excited" to enroll their students in a language immersion program, he understands that, with the limited funds, legislators have to prioritize.
"They have a responsibility to make those hard decisions," Wolff said.
Box Elder had planned a Chinese immersion program at Foothill Elementary School.