Leaders of the Denver Public Schools and the Congress of Hispanic Educators unanimously approved Friday an agreement on modifying a nearly 30-year-old plan for teaching English to immigrant students.

The agreement was hailed as a victory for the CHE, one of the original plaintiffs in the 1974 lawsuit that led to the 1984 consent decree establishing the plan.

After several months of negotiations, the CHE, DPS and Justice Department reached consensus in October on a document to update the programs for English-language learners to keep up with the technological and demographic changes of the last few decades.

The CHE, DPS and Justice Deparment presented Friday their joint proposal to U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch, who has been hearing the case since 1984.

This document establishes new rules for bilingual education classes for 36,000 DPS students who do not speak English.

Nearly 90 percent of those students are Latinos.

"It hasn't been easy over the years, and it has been adversarial in the past," CHE board member Martha M. Urioste said. "When you think how long we've been doing this, it's a huge, optimistic victory."

The new accord mandates that all DPS schools offer bilingual classes, asks for adequate training for teachers and principals for this task, awards rights to parents and establishes a system to monitor students' progress.

The modifications will take effect in stages over the next three years.

"Today we're standing on the shoulders of people who fought or a long time to guarantee students' rights. But unfortunately, the fight continues," Kathy Escamilla, professor of education at the University of Colorado and a member of CHE, told Efe.

The new agreement guarantees that "the rights of children take precedence over the whims that any new leadership might have," she said.

Exactly when Judge Matsch will hand down his final verdict on the case is not yet known. EFE