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House passes bill to boost bilingual education

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – A proposal aimed at boosting the number of bilingual teachers in New Mexico won overwhelming approval in the state House on Thursday.

The legislation, House Bill 120, calls for expanding state efforts to prepare teachers to educate students who are English-language learners, especially Hispanic and Native American youngsters.

Supporters say the proposal would help address last year’s landmark court ruling that found New Mexico is failing to provide a sufficient education to all students. The decision focused on “at-risk” students, such as those who speak another language and are learning English.

The legislation would establish a loan program to help college students preparing to become teachers with a focus on teaching English to speakers of other languages. It would also help students who want to teach in bilingual programs.

Participants would have to agree to teach in New Mexico public schools. They could apply for loans to cover their college tuition, fees and books.

Rep. Tomás Salazar, D-Las Vegas, said there aren’t enough New Mexico teachers trained to help English-language learners.

The bill is aimed at “creating a pipeline of new educators to serve the very significant need in New Mexico,” he said.

The Housed passed the legislation 63-0 on Thursday, and it now heads to the Senate.

Establishing the proposed Bilingual Teacher Preparation Act is expected to cost about $5 million a year. Salazar said the state budget proposal under consideration this session has about $25 million available that could be tapped for that purpose.

House lawmakers spoke in English and Spanish on Thursday as they spoke in favor of the bill.

“Everyone knows when you learn in two languages, you are much better as a scholar,” said Rep. Christine Trujillo, an Albuquerque Democrat who started her teaching career as a bilingual educator. “Your universe broadens.”

The bill is co-sponsored by four Democratic lawmakers in the House – Salazar, Trujillo, Joy Garratt of Albuquerque and Derrick Lente of Sandia Pueblo.

The House on Wednesday also passed a proposal that would provide assistance and training about cultural and linguistic teaching strategies to educators in rural parts of the state. That proposal, House Bill 111, also heads to the Senate now for consideration.

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