New Report: Creating a More Bilingual Texas – A Closer Look at Bilingual Education in the Lone Star State

(March 12, 2021) Texas public schools enroll emergent bilingual (English learner) students at twice the national rate. Yet, educational policy conversations often overlook emergent bilingual students and bilingual education.  IDRA co-authored a new report released in March 2021 in partnership with Every Texan. The report, Creating a More Bilingual Texas – A Closer Look at Bilingual Education in the Lone Star State by Dr. Chloe Latham Sikes, IDRA, & Chandra Kring Villanueva, Every Texan, provides an overview of policies, history and current issues for emergent bilingual students and bilingual/ESL education in Texas. It also shares recommendations to address the ongoing challenges to achieving educational equity for emergent bilingual students.

Long before its founding in 1845, Texas was a multilingual state. Currently, Texas educates the second-most students in the country with a home language other than English. The rich diversity of languages, cultures, skills, and expertise makes Texas an attractive and rapidly growing state. In order for our state to remain home to a competitively skilled and educated workforce, we must ensure that we educate emergent bilingual students effectively in both their home languages and English. This means working to right past wrongs of racial and ethnic discrimination through equitable and adequate funding and increased support for effective programming to promote future opportunities for emergent bilingual students.

Money matters in education. However, the percent of additional funding for emergent bilingual students above the base level of per-student funding has not changed since 1984. What’s more, campus-level spending on bilingual education suffered some of the most drastic cuts in 2011 at elementary schools with the highest percentage of low-income students. The big 2019 school finance reform added back some funding but still did not fully make up for the earlier cuts.

Now is the time to address and expand the educational opportunities and experiences that Texas provides its emergent bilingual students. The Creating a More Bilingual Texas report introduces the current state of education for emergent bilingual students in Texas, discusses the challenges and outcomes of bilingual and ESL education, and provides recommendations to improve equitable student performance, opportunities and state funding. Texas can no longer afford to shortchange our emergent bilingual students.