Bilingual teachers' jobs plentiful, stable

Recruiters comb a Dallas convention for applicants, despite an English-only referendum in California.

DALLAS – The one thing bilingual teachers can count on is job security, even in the face of an impending California law that aims to abolish their profession.

That much was clear at the 27th annual National Association for Bilingual Education meeting this week in Dallas, where the two major goals were defeating an English-only referendum and recruiting bilingual teachers from San Jose to Minneapolis.

Juanita Silva, the Fort Worth school district’s interim bilingual director, said she’s not been able to find a permanent replacement for herself, although she did hire two new teachers at the meeting.

“If you walk away with hiring two bilingual teachers, you’re doing good,” Silva said as she tried to lure passers-by to check out job opportunities.

Fort Worth is offering $ 5,200 bonuses and stipends for bilingual teachers who sign contracts before June 1. The district has openings for 16 bilingual teachers.

Other districts were not as lucky. The jobs are plentiful, but the applicants are few.

Even in California, where voters will decide June 2 whether to outlaw virtually all public bilingual education programs, recruiters were looking for applicants. Polls indicate that the measure will easily pass, meaning students with limited English skills will receive one year of intensive English instruction before they are transferred into regular classrooms.

Currently, about 30 percent of California’s 1.4 million students with limited English skills get part of their instruction in Spanish for up to five years while learning English, according to the association.

“Our district is not planning to do away with bilingual education,” said Armando Carrillo, principal of a Bakersfield elementary school. “We’re still going to have to serve those children, and it will be years before that law gets through the courts. In the meantime, we need teachers. “

Small groups of teachers debated the merits of bilingual education yesterday amid drawings by local students of their favorite places.

The artwork illustrated what it means to be bicultural and bilingual.

Silva said Fort Worth is considering starting so-called two-way immersion programs, which promote that kind of cultural and language exchange. The programs could be at South Hills, Lily B. Clayton and Westcliff elementary schools, where there is a good mix of native English and native Spanish speakers, she said.

The programs could be modeled after some Houston schools where both English- and Spanish-speaking students get all their instruction in Spanish 90 percent of the time but will eventually progress to 50 percent in English, said Jose Angel Hernandez, assistant superintendent of Houston public schools and treasurer of the Texas Association for Bilingual Education. The goal is to graduate students who are fluent in both languages.

The conference continues through tomorrow at the Dallas convention center.

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