A Texas school district’s drive to recruit bilingual teachers in Southern California in the wake of Proposition 227’s passage yielded few takers.
School officials spent three days in June interviewing applicants in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties, hoping to hire an estimated 20 bilingual and 25 English as a second language (ESL) teachers.
Five teachers signed letters of commitment during the recruitment drive, but only three have gone to Texas so far, said Charlene Robertson, a spokeswoman for the Arlington Independent School District.
Still, some district officials were pleased with the results.
“Our recruitment was quite successful,” said Mac Bernd, superintendent of the Arlington Independent School District since January. Bernd was the top official in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District for four years before moving to Arlington, a quickly growing suburb of Dallas and Fort Worth.
He said the idea of sending recruiters to Southern California came to him while reading newspaper articles about the passage of the controversial ballot measure, which has dismantled bilingual instruction in California classrooms.
“Our school year began Aug. 11. The teachers are in place, and all reports are good,” Bernd said.
One of the apparent deterrents for potential applicants, Bernd admits, was the issue of salary. In Arlington, teacher salaries start at $26,900 a year, with an average annual salary of $33,304. That is considerably less than the $32,000 starting salary of a Los Angeles Unified School District teacher, where the average salary is nearly $46,000, not including the $2,500 to $5,000 pay differential for bilingual teachers, said Day Higuchi, president of United Teachers-Los Angeles.
“In Texas, qualified bilingual teachers are extremely scarce,” Bernd said. “If we got five teachers to commit, the initiative really paid off. Some people saw it as a gamble, but the results were worth it.”
While Bernd said the timing of Proposition 227’s passage brought the issue to a head this year, the district has not ruled out future recruitment drives in the area.
“Southern California is certainly an excellent source for sophisticated, qualified, well-trained and committed teachers.”
There are 56,000 students in Arlington schools, Bernd said, and Latino students make up 18% of the student population, double the percentage of 10 years ago.
Arlington school officials also left applications at many Southland schools, and have received many calls from teachers expressing interest since the recruitment drive ended, said Julie Mayfield, director of secondary personnel.