I coordinate a program at San José State University that prepares teachers to obtain an authorization to teach in dual immersion or bilingual school settings in California. Known as Bilingüismo y Justicia, the program believes that the linguistic assets of our diverse community are the response to our current needs in multilingual education.
Our core principle is that recognizing and honoring the linguistic abilities of our children, our bilingual teacher candidates, and our community as a whole is a matter of justice. We work to develop fine bilingual teaching skills that are attuned to the unique needs of our area, adapting pedagogies to the historical and linguistic dynamics of the places where learning happens.
By cultivating the assets of our community, we have grown from 25 to over 90 bilingual candidates in our local pipeline over the last two years. Some of the teachers that we have attracted were not aware of the possibilities of teaching bilingually since many grew up under California’s English-only system, which was brought to an end by Proposition 58 in 2016. Others needed encouragement and support to trust their own proficiency to teach bilingually. With the right information and the resource of our program, they took a step forward. However, as our K-12 partners contact us with bilingual staﬃng needs, our nearly 400% growth is not even close to enough.
The California Department of Education’s Global California 2030 plan includes a goal to have some 1,600 dual language immersion programs by 2030, enabling half of all K-12 students to gain proficiency in two or more languages. Importantly, it also sets the target of 2,000 bilingual teacher authorizations yearly. Such authorizations, issued by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, enable bilingual educators to teach their subject in target languages in bilingual settings.
The only problem is, we would need to double the current number of bilingual teachers in our preparation programs to reach these targets.
Investment now in bilingual teacher pipeline programs is of paramount importance for the future of California. We know this from educational policy analyses alarming us about the present and future shortage of bilingual teachers and through our own experience in the field daily.
The good news is, this year’s state budget provides two excellent opportunities for the state to step up its investment in bilingual teachers so we can better meet our goals to provide more dual language immersion courses.
One initiative, the Bilingual Teacher Professional Development Program, which ran from 2018 to 2020, pursued a “grow your own” approach. Bilingual paraprofessionals and teachers in schools received subsidized education leading to their credential and/or added bilingual authorization. For many teacher candidates it was a dream come true, as they received support toward their credentialing tuition cost and received targeted professional development. Unfortunately, this program ended in 2021. However, it is now being considered for renewed funding.
A bill in the Legislature could also help grow the number of bilingual teachers. Assembly Bill 1701, would establish the California State University Jump Start Grant program to substantially increase the number of college faculty preparing and supporting bilingual authorization programs. It would provide funds to hire more professors to train aspiring bilingual teachers. This would enable teacher preparation programs to recruit more prospective bilingual teachers and provide deeper levels of bilingual teacher preparation, a critical area of need in our bilingual teacher pipeline.
Echoing calls from organizations like Californians Together or the California Association for Bilingual Education, we must advocate for this forward-looking initiative if we are to live up to our 2030 dreams. Robustly structured and appropriately funded teacher preparation programs will play a critical factor in sustaining the education that Californians want for today and tomorrow.
We must embrace and fund statewide programs like the Bilingual Teacher Professional Development Program and the CSU Jump Start Grant for a statewide, sustainable solution.
To be sure, we are currently besieged by competing equity challenges that have been exposed and exacerbated by the pandemic. It is diﬃcult to balance the needs of today’s kids with the needs of tomorrow’s schools while being accountable to the taxpayers of our present time. However, it takes a healthy dose of organizational foresight, a firm commitment to equity and a courageous vision for a better California to fund the specific programs that plant seeds for the future as part of the solution for present challenges. It is not an irreconcilable binary.
When Proposition 227 de facto banned bilingual education in California in 1998, it not only denied our communities multilingual assets, but it also disrupted the flow of bilingual teachers that could be serving schools today. The potential for a bilingual California is not pie in the sky, but a real seed rooted in our diverse communities. Therefore, intentional and sustained funding must be directed to revert monolingual inertia and secure a rich and continuous stream of bilingual teachers in our preparation programs.
This is how 2030 aspirations turn into 2030 facts.
Eduardo R. Muñoz-Muñoz is the coordinator of the Critical Bilingual Authorization program Bilingüismo y Justicia in the Connie L. Lurie College of Education, San José State University. He is also a Public Voices fellow with the OpEd Project.
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