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Weekly brief Begin foreign language study early

There is little doubt that in today’s global economy, even though so many people speak English, Americans need to have more knowledge of foreign languages.

That’s why we applaud the Rochester Catholic Schools’ plan to begin instructing students in kindergarten through fourth grade in Spanish and French.

The program gets under way next fall, following a pilot program this year in which French and Spanish were taught to kindergarten students.

Eventually, the program will expand through eighth grade, giving local Catholic school students a head start on other students, who normally don’t start serious study of a foreign language until reaching high school.

The early elementary years are actually a much better time to begin speaking foreign languages, and on that count alone the Catholic schools program is laudatory. In addition, as anyone who has studied a foreign language knows, that study also includes becoming familiar with a foreign culture — something else we need more of in the global economy.

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    K-M wise to approve school plan
    It was good to see the $5.2 million school proposal in Kasson-Mantorville pass with such overwhelming support last week.

    It demonstrates that the vast majority of residents in that school district are on the same page when it comes to the district’s most pressing need, an expansion of its elementary school.

    The proposal was approved by a vote of 1,077 to 465, meaning that about 70 percent of voters supported it.

    The expansion project, which will include the addition of eight elementary classrooms, could be completed as soon as March of 2008. The referendum also includes money for six new science labs and remodeling at the high school.

    Later this year, voters will decide the fate of a much larger project, the construction of a new middle school at a projected cost of $19 million.

    School officials wisely decided to separate the two projects because of the importance of first solving the overcrowding problem at the elementary level.

      Smoking ban fight isn’t partisan
      It now appears likely that a statewide smoking ban will pass the Legislature before it adjourns in a couple of weeks.

      The Senate and House have both passed bills that would outlaw smoking in all restaurants and bars, and Gov. Tim Pawlenty has said he’ll sign a smoking ban bill if and when it lands on his desk.

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      But there are still some big discrepancies to be resolved between the Senate and House versions of the bill. The Senate bill calls for the ban to be enacted this year, for example, while the House bill would delay implementation until 2009. And the House bill would allow local authorities to issue permits for ventilated smoking rooms in some establishments, while the Senate bill does not include exceptions.

      We’re encouraged by the fact that voting on the smoking ban bill, thus far, has not been divided along party lines. The bills’ most vocal supporters — and detractors — come from both political parties.

      Too often, in the past, controversial issues like the smoking ban were decided based not on what legislators’ constituents wanted but rather by what party leaders wanted.

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