Today, we are turning our attention to California, where several bills sit on Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk that could significantly improve the education of English Learners (ELs) – from early childhood through higher education. Newsom has until October 14th to sign or veto these bills sent by the state legislature on September 14th.
For the Golden State’s youngest learners, Assembly Bill 393 will require childcare centers that receive state subsidies – including home-based care – to conduct home language surveys to learn what language is spoken at home. This will help early childhood educators incorporate the child’s home language into their programs and help youngsters maintain those languages while learning English. It will also provide the state with critical data on how many children speak languages other than English at home.
English Learners will now have more avenues to receive the state’s Seal of Biliteracy on their high school diplomas through Assembly Bill 370. The pending changes would allow more multilingual students to add this to their credentials by providing more avenues to demonstrate English proficiency.
Students expanded options to show proficiency in English and another language coupled with the home language survey, is a step toward recognizing home languages as assets rather than deficits.
The Governor is also considering a bill (Assembly Bill 714) for newcomer students. Although California has some of the country’s strongest resources for ELs in their English Language Arts and English Language Development framework, this measure would target students who have arrived in the United States in the last three years. Martha Hernandez of Californians Together – an English Learner advocacy organization – said the bill “will ensure that newcomer students are more visible in our education system and receive the support they need for success.”
Finally, Assembly Bill 1127 would re-establish the Bilingual Teacher Professional Development Program. This program helped prepare teachers to work with English Learners and in dual immersion programs. Today, school districts across the state struggle to find teachers with the bilingual authorization to work with English Learners. Once signed into law, the program would restart with $20 million for the next five years.
One in five of the nearly 5 million English Learners enrolled in public schools in the nation reside in California. The efforts moving in the state would have a real impact on the educational experience for this vulnerable population. They could provide valuable information to other states and federal leaders on supporting – and celebrating – our multilingual young people.
We will keep you updated as Governor Newsom makes his decisions.
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