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GSU wins grant for bilingual K-12 project as Trump gives more voice to anti-illegal immigrant wing

Georgia State University has won a $2.7 million federal grant to expand a project that seeks to teach students who are learning the English language. Credit: GSU

By David Pendered

Georgia State University has received a $2.7 million federal grant to help teachers improve their work with bilingual students. The timing is of note.

Georgia State University has won a $2.7 million federal grant to expand a project that seeks to teach students who are learning the English language. Credit: GSU

Georgia State University has won a $2.7 million federal grant to expand a project that seeks to teach students who are learning the English language. Credit: GSU

The grant was announced Thursday, the day before President-elect Trump expanded the influence on his transition team of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.). Sessions is a staunch critic of illegal immigration.

There’s no telling how the Trump administration will handle federal programs such as the one that provided the five-year grant to Georgia State. But developments on Friday increased Sessions’ influence and, presumably, the anti-illegal immigration plank of Trump’s platform.

On Friday, Trump removed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as transition chairman and a top Christie ally as transition director. Trump replaced Christie with his vice president running mate, Mike Pence. Trump replaced the former transition director with Session’s chief of staff since 2004 who also was a paid a policy consultant to the Trump campaign, Rich Dearborn, according to reports by al.com and wsj.com.

Sessions continues as one of the six men serving on the executive team of Trump’s transition team.

Here’s what Trump’s website says about immigration. These are items nine and 10 on a list titled, “Donald J. Trump’s 10 Point Plan to Put America First:

  • “9. Turn off the jobs and benefits magnet. Many immigrants come to the U.S. illegally in search of jobs, even though federal law prohibits the employment of illegal immigrants.
  • “10. Reform legal immigration to serve the best interests of America and its workers, keeping immigration levels within historic norms.”

The GSU project will expand an existing body of federally-funded work that focused on ways to teach STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and math – to English language learners.

The new project intends to, “better incorporate families and communities in the work,” according to a GSU statement. The project is titled, “Todos Juntos: Uniting Communities to Improve Practice for English Learners (Juntos).”

According to GSU Associate Professor Laura May, who’s worked with the exiting and now the expanded project:

  • “Within the previous project, it was clear that the most successful collaborative innovations were those that included meaningful family and community components. For example, at Hightower Elementary in DeKalb County, teachers and parents worked together to create a community garden that could be used by both the community and by teachers who wanted to expand student science learning.
    Laura May

    Laura May

  • “Family involvement and early student success are closely linked. Though parents are concerned for their children’s education and able to be supportive and useful, it can be difficult for them to gain access to relevant conversations, especially when English is not their first language. It’s critical to the success of Atlanta-area urban schools for family and community voices to be incorporated into professional learning opportunities in ways that expand family engagement and make communication between schools and families easier for each.”

The grant was awarded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition. Here’s how the office describes itself on the department’s website. The office:

  • “[P]rovides national leadership to help ensure that English Learners and immigrant students attain English proficiency and achieve academic success. In addition to preserving heritage languages and cultures, OELA is committed to prompting opportunities for biliteracy or multiliteracy skills for all students.”


David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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