In a state education budget of more than $6 billion, a $2 million
program that serves just 2 percent of Georgia's elementary students
might not seem too important.
But two of the children in that foreign-language program belong to Linda Steindorf of Roswell.
Earlier this year, Ms. Steindorf was looking for local press coverage of a study that ranked the program as the best of its kind when she instead discovered that the program was on the state budget chopping block.
Learning that their children's beloved program was going to be terminated, she and other parents decided to let lawmakers know how they felt.
"Don't throw this away. This is huge," Ms. Steindorf said of the 2001 study by the Center for Applied Linguistics, a research and teacher education group in Washington. "We never get to say we're number one in Georgia."
Calling themselves the Georgia Coalition for Language Learning, the parents jumped into action. They wrote letters, sent e-mail messages, visited the state Capitol, and delivered origami baskets to legislators. As a result, lawmakers restored full funding for the program. The final verdict rests with Democratic Gov. Roy E. Barnes, who had not signed the budget as of last week.
The Center for Applied Linguistics concluded that children in the program were "making commendable progress in acquiring a foreign language" and that the initiative was a "model program, not just for Georgia, but for the country."
Ms. Steindorf's children, ages 8 and 10, have been taking Japanese since they began kindergarten at Mimosa Elementary, which is in the 69,700- student Fulton County district. French, German, and Spanish are also taught in 27 schools statewide that are part of the program.
Elizabeth Webb, a program specialist at the Georgia Department of Education, said she hopes funding is not only maintained, but that the program is replicated more widely throughout the state.
Vol. 21, Issue 33, Page 18Published in Print: May 1, 2002, as State Journal