New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas has been awarded a $237,681 federal grant to improve bilingual education services for Limited English Proficient (LEP) students in northern New Mexico, according to the office of Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M.

The university was awarded the U.S. Department of Education grant under the Career Ladder Program. The program helps participants complete degree programs, includes employment placement services and works to develop teacher proficiency in English as a Second Language.

“This funding will help Highlands to alleviate the overwhelming shortage of bilingual teachers,” according to a news release from Domenici’s office.

In partnership with Highlands, this program will serve the nine school districts of Chama, Espanola, Jemez Mountain, Mesa Vista, Penasco, Pojoaque, Questa, Santa Fe and Taos.

The nine target districts have a substantial number of LEP students whose academic performance is well below that of their mainstream counterparts.

The New Mexico Department of Education recently predicted a shortage of 1,500 teachers within the next fire years, a large percentage of those being teachers trained in bilingual education.

In fact, in a recent survey by the Council of Great City Schools, 72.5 percent of urban districts had an immediate need for bilingual teachers, according to Domenici’s office.

The Highlands grant is a much needed step towards the relief of the lack of bilingual teachers.

Domenici is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which sets funding levels for the Department of Education.

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