LOS ANGELES: While Californians passed a ballot measure to bring back bilingual education in the upcoming school year, educators say a challenge to getting the programs started will be finding more bilingual teachers. Nearly two decades after banning most bilingual education, Californians voted in November to let schools restore it for both English learners and English speakers whose parents want them to learn Spanish, Mandarin and other languages to compete globally for jobs.
Educators say growing interest in bilingual programs will boost already high demand for teachers trained and credentialed to teach the classes. Schools that already have such programs in California and in other states, including Utah and Oregon have brought teachers on visas from overseas to meet the need.
“There is already a shortage for bilingual teachers with just the demand we have right now,” said Joshua Speaks, a spokesman for the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. The overwhelming vote in favor of Proposition 58 is a huge turnaround from the backlash to bilingual education following a surge in immigration to California in the 1990s. Since then, some schools have started bilingual programs but parents of English learners had to sign annual waivers for their children to participate, and many districts were reluctant to take on the paperwork.
Since the measure passed and with 73.5 percent of the vote many schools are expected to expand bilingual offerings or start new programs. Among the most popular models are so-called dual language immersion programs mixing English learners and English speakers in the classroom and splitting instructional time between English and another language. The state’s Department of Education estimates California currently has at least 350 dual language immersion programs, though the vast majority of the state’s 1.4 million English learners are currently taught using English immersion. Robert Oakes, a department spokesman, could not say how many districts will start bilingual programs, but expects many will.