DELANO, Calif. (KERO) — Closing the opportunity gap is the focus of Senate Bill 952 introduced by Senator Monique Limon. Its goal is to expand high-quality "dual language" learning across the state.
Dual immersion programs are offered at schools in Kern County including at Nueva Vista Language Academy. But SB 952 would create a grant program that would be used to increase the number of dual language learning programs offered to students in preschool through 12th grade.
Through the "Expanding Culture and Language Learning in Schools Grant Program," the bill would require the state department of education to award a minimum of 20 one-time grants of up to $750,000 each to school districts, county offices of education, and certain charter schools and specified pre-school programs.
This bill, subject to an appropriation, would establish the Expanding Culture and Language Learning in Schools Grant Program with the goal of growing capacity for high-quality dual language learning in preschools, transitional kindergarten, kindergarten, and grades 1 to 12, inclusive, as provided. The bill would require the State Department of Education, commencing October 1, 2023, to award a minimum of 20 one-time grants of up to $750,000 per grant to school districts, county offices of education, certain charter schools, and specified preschool programs, as provided. The bill would require the department to, among other things, determine grant award selection criteria, review applications, award grants, identify and determine how data will be collected and shared with the public, and meet quarterly with grantees to share practices and resources and resolve implementation issues. The bill would require the department to hire a consultant to coordinate program activities and provide technical assistance to the department. The bill would require the department to contract for technical assistance and strategic planning services for grantees and would exempt those contracts from various state contracting requirements. The bill would require the department to submit to the appropriate policy and budget committees of the Legislature an annual progress report and, on or before October 1, 2029, a one-time report, with specified information about the progress and outcomes of the grant program.
The bill seeks to help close the opportunity gap between native English speakers and students who use English as a second language. But for some students in Kern County, it's already becoming a reality.
Students and parents at Nueva Vista Language Academy in Delano say the dual immersion program has positively impacted their children.
Third-grader Sarina Garcia is bilingual. She is one of many students enrolled in Nueva Vista Academy’s dual immersion program, a challenging program where Spanish is used as the target language of instruction.
“What I like when I’m learning about Spanish is to probably read and write.”
“I just believe that my kids speaking Spanish is going to serve them volumes later down the road," explained Nueva Vista school nurse and Sarina's mother Aracelly Garcia. "They might not understand the importance of it. I know it will do wonders for them as young adults.”
Nueva Vista Language Academy Principal Joshua Herrera says when students enter the program some are learning Spanish or English for the first time.
“So in kindergarten, 90% of their day is in Spanish, 10% is in English and that is served through our English language development block. In first grade, it is in 80% Spanish, and 20% in English. So they will throw in a subject area of science and English throughout the year. In second and third grade, the English increases. By the time the students are in 4th, 5th, and 6th grade, 50% of their day is in English and in Spanish.”
“The dual immersion program is not different than any other program out there so our students learn the same math, multiplication, fractions, everything is still the same,” continued Herrera. “The difference is not only are they learning fractions, not only are they learning time in second grade, but also they are learning it in a separate language as well.”
Third-grader Anahali Vasquez says the program helped her learn English quickly.
“It's a simple language yet it has weird spellings.”
Her mom, Rebecca Bustillo, a speech pathologist, says it was important that her daughter learn to communicate with others who speak a different language.
“All of us know the importance of being bilingual, being able to communicate with the parents here, and being able to communicate with so many different, people with so many different countries.”
Sarina’s mom says the program is a challenge but it allowed her daughter to become more well-rounded inside and outside of the classroom.
"I would have to say that any parent that is interested in this program and does decide to move forward with it. It very much is a process and we have to trust that process."