Governor signs bill expanding dual language funding for public schools

by: John Knicely Updated:

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The number of students whose first language isn’t English continues to skyrocket across the state of Washington, and on Monday Governor Jay Inslee signed a bill aimed at capitalizing on that diversity. 

Under the new law, schools can apply for $200,000 grants to support dual language classrooms where students learn in English and in their native language.

In the past 20 years, the number of students whose first language isn’t English grew from 15,000 to more than 118,000 throughout the state.  On Monday, KIRO 7 got a look at how a dual language class works at Mount View Elementary in the Highline School District.

Kindergarten students learn science and social studies in Spanish and they learn math in English in a different classroom.  Students learn literacy in their native language and are always partnered with another student who does not speak their native language so they can help each other out.

“We're providing bilingual education for the jobs of tomorrow in an international economy,” said Governor Jay Inslee as he signed the bill Monday at Evergreen High School in Seattle.

The dual language program will cost about $700,000 per year.  And the bill also provides $900,000 for a program to have bilingual high school students recruit 8th and 9th graders who may want to become bilingual teachers.

“We need more paraeducators, we need more teachers,” said Inslee.  “And to think we're going to recruit more teachers in 8th or 9th grade is exciting. And we know who the best recruiter are, right? It's the people 2 or 3 years older and cooler than you.”

Now, the funding for the programs will be up to budget appropriations which are being negotiated in Olympia.

The governor also signed a bill to provide more professional training for paraeducators who assist in the classroom.  The new law creates a state paraeducator board and creates a path for paraeducators to become full-time teachers.