California school districts struggle to find bilingual instructors in all languages, including Spanish, but the scarcity is much more acute for teachers who are proficient in Asian languages. A lack of instructors having dual authorization in Asian languages prevents many districts from starting or expanding dual immersion programs in those languages. “We have dire shortages of bilingually authorized teachers in those languages,” said Magaly Lavadenz, professor and executive director of the Center for Equity for English Learners at Loyola Marymount University. “Teachers are in high demand, and there’s a big shortage of them, and districts really want them and families and communities really want them.”
The Asian Language Bilingual Teacher Education Program Consortium, which aids in the preparation of bilingual instructors of Asian languages such as Vietnamese, Korean, Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, and Hmong, has received $5 million from the California Legislature’s budget.
Students may get their bilingual authorization by taking courses at any of the consortium’s ten California State University campuses, thanks to a scheme that pools resources throughout the university system. A bilingual authorization gives instructors the ability to educate pupils who are learning English in English language development while also allowing them to instruct main instruction in a language other than English.
A significant chunk of the funds is going to go toward assisting students with the cost of attending courses. Most of these classes are only available over the summer or in “extension programs,” which means that students must pay more tuition and have limited access to financial assistance to take these sessions. “This summer, some students wanted to take the classes, but they couldn’t, and the reason why is money,” said Fernando Rodrguez-Valls, bilingual authorization program coordinator at CSU Fullerton.
The stipends for low-enrollment teachers will also be provided by the money since summer schools generally compensate professors per student.
Bilingual instructors in Asian languages, says Nikki Dominguez, director of policy for the nonprofit group Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles, that lobbied for the funding, would assist in enhancing competency in both Asian languages and English. “The Asian American community has the highest limited-English proficiency level in adults in communities of color here in California, and we know that language accessibility is important,” Dominguez said.
In addition, she said that dual immersion programs, which educate all kids, regardless of their proficiency in English or other languages, are a means of preventing anti-Asian prejudice and increasing understanding. “We don’t want to wait until those incidents of hate and violence happen but really look at how we can invest in prevention, and one of the ways we can do that is dual-language programs. We know, and research has shown, that this is a very effective way to create more understanding and appreciation across ethnic groups,” Dominguez said.
Lavadenz added that in addition to training more bilingual teachers, California has to engage in professional development for teachers after they begin teaching, which would help districts retain instructors long term. “What we’re seeing in the field, and especially among Asian language educators, is that if the school culture and the district climate don’t support their professional development, they end up going to another district where they can find the community and support for their own professional growth,” Lavadenz said.
Several advocacy groups for bilingual education and English learners, including Californians Together, the California Association for Bilingual Education, and SEAL, commended the funding for bilingual educators in Asian languages but encouraged the Legislature and Governor Gavin Newsom to also continue financing other initiatives that assist in training bilingual teachers, including the Bilingual Teacher Professional Development Program and the Educa. Special education training and implementation of the English Learner Roadmap, a roadmap for districts to better help kids who are learning English, have been financed since 2020 under the grant program. The initiative was to be funded with $15 million under Newsom’s budget proposal, but the funds were not included in the final budget bill. “Any policy implementation takes more than two years,” said Lavadenz. “It’s like pulling the rug out from under a system that was really working.”
The Multilingual Teacher Professional Development Program provided college-level courses to equip teachers to work in bilingual classrooms from county offices of education and school districts. The program was set to terminate in 2021. “It was disappointing to see that the Bilingual Teacher Professional Development Program (BTPDP) was not funded,” wrote Anya Hurwitz, director of SEAL, a nonprofit organization that provides training to help schools develop strong bilingual programs. “The findings in our latest policy brief show that BTPDP works and with proper support, school districts can “grow their own” teachers to help fill the critical bilingual teacher shortage in the state. But districts can’t do it alone. They need adequate state funding to implement these effective strategies.”