Mar 1, 2023 - News

San Antonio's bilingual students affected by U.S. teacher shortage

Illustration of a chalkboard in the shape of a speech bubble.

The national teacher shortage has a stark effect on bilingual education. Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The effects of the nationwide teacher shortage are particularly stark for bilingual students and English learners, advocates say.

The big picture: The number of people in the U.S. who speak a language other than English at home has nearly tripled in the last 40 years.

Threat level: It's crucial for districts with high numbers of emergent bilingual students to retain as many of their teachers as possible, to minimize the impact of shortages on student learning.

  • Lizdelia Piñón, an education associate at San Antonio-based Intercultural Development Research Association, explains the "silent labor" bilingual educators take on in their roles, such as acting as translators on campus or struggling to find the resources and books for their lesson plans.
  • "A lot of kids do fall through the cracks. Our students are not getting the highly qualified teachers that they deserve," she tells Axios.

By the numbers: Piñón says 1 in 5 Texas students are English learner students.

One approach: Northeast ISD is offering incentives to bilingual teachers, district spokesperson Aubrey Chancellor tells Axios.

  • Current incentives are a $1,000 relocation bonus, $1,000 sign-on bonus and $3,000 stipend.
  • The district has 4,856 dual language students and 5,472 ESL students. There are 267 bilingual teachers and 565 ESL teachers, Chancellor says.

What they're saying: Piñón recently testified before the Texas House Public Education and Higher Education committees regarding the bilingual teacher shortage.

  • She offered recommendations to improve recruitment, such as reducing the amount of exams and costs it takes to become qualified to teach bilingual or ESL classes or creating programs for high school students that nurture their interest in bilingual education.
  • "We need to start paying our teachers for the skills they bring into the classroom and the Spanish language hasn't been given the weight it deserves," Piñón tells Axios.

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