Arlington parents make plea for foreign language funding

ARLINGTON, Va. (WJLA) - Arlington parents made a plea for funding for foreign language instruction in all elementary schools during the County Board meeting Saturday morning.

Rosemary Filou is a single mother raising 7-year-old twin boys. Like most parents, Filou wants the best education for her sons. For her, this means an elementary school with a foreign language program.

Thirteen of the 22 elementary schools in Arlington County have "Foreign Language in Elementary Schools," also known as FLES. Filou's boys attend Tuckahoe, which does not have the program.

"I was shocked when I found out last year that my kids weren't going to receive foreign language instruction while a lot of other kids in Arlington were getting it," said Filou. "I think it's so important for us to communicate with each other and to understand other cultures."

In 2006, Arlington County began rolling out FLES in some elementary schools, but the costly process stopped before all the schools had the program. While Arlington Public Schools did see a 2.2 percent increase in the budget, implemented in July, the school district has also seen a large spike in enrollment numbers. The cost of implementing FLES is estimated at $450,000 per school.

Filou received a standing ovation from area parents Saturday after she requested funding for FLES during the County Board meeting. However, the board did not have the answers the parents were hoping for.

"It's important to understand that this is not something the County Board can do anything about," explained County Board member Chris Zimmerman.

He and several of the members responded to Filou, saying that while they do provide the funding for the schools, they do not have a say in what the money is used for. Ultimately, it is up to the school board.

Many of the parents were displeased by the county's response.

"I was so disappointed to come to the county and feel like when I have finally gotten involved with the Democratic process here in Arlington, we're being smacked down," Filou said.

The parents said they will not give up and plan on going back to the school board in the near future.