from the office of State Senator Judith Zaffirini

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
512/463-0121
March 8, 2001

SENATE PASSES ZAFFIRINI BILL TO ENCOURAGE BILINGUALISM AMONG TEXAS STUDENTS

The Texas Senate today (Thursday) unanimously passed a bill that would allow school districts to create dual language immersion programs.

SB 467 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, addresses the importance of bilingualism in a rapidly growing international society. It encourages programs designed to ensure that kindergarten students will be literate in two languages by the end of the third grade and will maintain the second language in grades 4-12.

Clearly flexible and permissive, SB 467 calls for school districts to offer dual language immersion programs that should include approximately 50 percent native-English speakers and 50 percent foreign-language speakers, with at least half of the instruction given in English and half in the foreign language.

The South Texas Association of Schools, Texas Foreign Language Association and the Region One Education Service Centers expressed strong support for the dual language immersion bill.

Senators Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin, and Carlos Truan, D-Corpus Christi, are co-authors. Senators Mario Gallegos, D-Houston; Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville; Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound; and David Sibley, R-Waco, are co-sponsors of the bill.

The Texas Federation of Teachers and League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) report that bilingual education is a high priority for both organizations.

In its report, Texas Education Initiative 2000-2001, LULAC recommends that all Texas children starting elementary school be provided with the opportunity to participate in Dual Language or Two-Way Programming. Such a program would provide English and Spanish instruction each day, if parents choose to enroll their child in the program.

SB 467 does not limit the second language to Spanish. Instead, the legislation refers to "native speakers of one other language," meaning that whatever language is "native" to the area may be implemented. This would allow schools to utilize resources already available to them including teachers who are bilingual in French, Spanish, German, or another language.

One program is already in place at the Fort Worth Independent School District. The program began in 1983 and was implemented at the kindergarten through fifth grade levels and in the sixth through eighth grade levels. Of the 185 students in the elementary program, only one did not pass all three parts of TAAS. Social studies, math and science are taught completely in Spanish, and reading and language arts are taught in English.

Fort Worth ISD also offers language immersion summer camps. The children attend from 9 a.m.- noon and concentrate on Hispanic/Latino music and arts and crafts. They keep journals about their summer camp experience.

"The benefits of dual language programs are impressive," Sen. Zaffirini said. "Bilingual, biliterate children, for example, enjoy higher self-esteem and increased cognitive academic achievement. What's more, dual language immersion programs also help reduce cultural stereotypes and increase students' creative thinking as they learn two languages."

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