Inslee signs bill to expand dual language education

Tu Thanh Dinh, a first grade teacher at White Center Heights Elementary in Burien, leads a lesson to his first grade students in their Vietnamese immersion language class. (Photo by Ellen Banner / The Seattle Times)
Tu Thanh Dinh, a first grade teacher at White Center Heights Elementary in Burien, leads a lesson to his first grade students in their Vietnamese immersion language class. (File photo by Ellen Banner / The Seattle Times)

Schools in Washington are being promised more support for dual language education, after Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill Monday that expands funding.

Washington has historically had a high demand for education that promotes the use of multiple languages. There are more than 30 bilingual preschool options in Seattle and Bellevue alone.

The bill, SHB 1445, calls for the expansion of funds for dual language education programs in early-learning and K-12 schools across Washington — if funded by the state Legislature. The law calls for two-year grants of up to $200,000 each for schools proposing to establish or expand a dual language program. Those grants also get a $20,000 boost for schools establishing a program in a language other than Spanish.

It also would start a long-term program to recruit, prepare, and mentor bilingual high school students to become future bilingual teachers and counselors.

However, the Legislature does have the option to not fund the programs.

Children are at the prime age for language acquisition, researchers have found and bilingual kids have increased cognitive abilities. Because of this, there has been an increased push for dual language learning for students.

Various education and diversity promoting organizations, including OneAmerica, the Center for Community Education Results and Moms Rising, attended the signing at Evergreen High School in the Highline School District.

“We know that students learn better in classrooms that honor and value students’ cultural contributions,”said Roxana Norouzi, director of Education and Integration Policy at OneAmerica, said in a prepared statement.. “We look forward to more initiatives from our legislature that are proven to help eliminate the opportunity gap and provide innovative education models.”

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