Governor Pat Quinn today signed a new law designed to strengthen bilingual education in Illinois. The law authorizes the Illinois Advisory Council on Bilingual Education to study and make recommendations on the state of bilingual education in Illinois, as well as the role of parents of students whose first language is not English. Today's action at the Inter-American Magnet School paves the way for the possible implementation of "parent academies" and is the governor's latest to further improve education in Illinois.
"School is challenging enough for students and parents alike without having to struggle with a new language," Governor Quinn said. "This new law will keep Illinois on the cutting edge of bilingual education programs to ensure that every student is ready for the workforce."
Sponsored by Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora) and Sen. Iris Martinez (D-Chicago), House Bill 3819 requires the Advisory Council to evaluate the success rate of bilingual programs, examine innovative initiatives such as "parent academies" and "cultural competency programs", and submit a report to the State Superintendent of Education, Governor and General Assembly by Jan. 1, 2013.
According to an Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) study, there were 183,000 Illinois students in 2010 for whom English was not a first language, nearly 10 percent of the entire student population. Spanish-speakers comprise 80 percent of those enrolled in English language programs; rounding out the top ten are Polish, Urdu, Arabic, Tagalog, Korean, Cantonese/Mandarin, Gujarati, Vietnamese and Russian. While most live in Chicago, there are growing numbers of non-English speaking students in Elgin, Cicero, Aurora and Waukegan.
The Advisory Council on Bilingual Education, which was created in 1992 to propose recommendations to ISBE, will examine the feasibility of "parent academies" through which parents learn about standardized testing, homework completion strategies and student-teacher relationships. Some states offer free two-hour workshops for parents that cover "conditions for learning", such as school safety, home supportiveness and nutrition. In urban areas, the "parent academy" approach has successfully addressed the specific needs of single parents and immigrant families.
"Parents of non-English speaking students want - and need - to feel a greater stake in navigating their child's education. This new law opens the door to such innovations as "parent academies' to accomplish that," said Rep. Chapa LaVia, who Chairs the Illinois House Elementary and Secondary Education Appropriations Committee.
"We are always looking for ways to help all students maximize their academic potential. This new law will help," said Sen. Martinez.
The bill was supported by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), and passed unanimously in both chambers. The new law takes effect Jan. 1, 2013.