San Francisco Filipinos win funding for Tagalog education

SAN FRANCISCO – It took weeks for some members of the Filipino community in San Francisco to push officials to provide funding and support for Tagalog classes in the city.

In the end, their efforts paid off.

The San Francisco Unified School District has decided to hire its first full-time Tagalog-speaking teacher on special assignment to begin next school year.

“This is a true case of people power,” said Vivian Zalvidea Araullo, the executive director of the West Bay Pilipino Multi-Service Center. “So yes, from zero to getting a full-time teacher which is amounting to about $100,000. It was a struggle and it was like pulling teeth. We were pulling teeth and we succeeded.”

Originally the school excluded funding for Filipinos from its $1.9 million 2015-2016 budget for multilingual education for kindergarten to 8th grade students.

Filipinos make up five percent of the affected student population.

“This Board of Education was discriminating against Filipinos and we brought all this stuff out in the open,” said Emil DeGuzman of the Linguistic & Kultura Advocacy Society. “We were deeply troubled that they wouldn’t make any change unless we came before them and pushed it.”

“I’m very happy for me and my daughter because the budget we have been fighting for has been approved,” said Robert Abad, whose child goes to West Bay. “It’s not just for me and my family but for all the Filipino families in San Francisco.”

School officials have now also pledged to expand Tagalog programs to the third grade level at Long Fellow Elementary and Bessie Carmichael, which both currently offer enrichment programs in kindergarten through second grades.

“All they have to do is open a class at the Filipino Education Center,” said Magdalena DeGuzman, the Tagalog teacher at Bessie Carmichael Elementary. “They’re saying they don’t have a space but they need to know — the new administrators, new teachers, new people — they need to know that we expanded that school so that the language can expand from kindergarten to 8th grade.”

Filipino American commissioner Hydra Mendoza said from the start that the allocated amount was not sufficient and that the program needs to be well funded so it can grow to properly serve students.

“We’d like to thank commissioner Hydra Mendoza and of course commissioner Emily Murase,” said Aruallo. “They were the biggest advocates for Filipinos. It was obvious right from the beginning that zero dollars for the Filipino community is a total inequity and unacceptable and they championed our cause.”

Parents and community advocates say that they will continue to pressure the school board with their goal of having a Tagalog class be available in the middle school and high school level.

Follow Rommel Conclara on Twitter @rommelconclara for more information.

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