Shortage of Bilingual Teachers - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

12/3/03 - Tyler

Shortage of Bilingual Teachers

Black and Hispanic lawmakers from around the country have announced they plan to work together to improve education for minorities. One area Texas legislators are focusing on is bilingual education. Hispanics now make up one-third of the state's population, but the state is lacking in bilingual teachers.

"Ideally, a perfect classroom would be about 15 to 16 kids," said Crystal Perez, bilingual first-grade teacher at Douglas Elementary School. "I have a classroom of 21 students, and all over the district, we have large classrooms that are bilingual rooms. It presents a problem because I don't get to spend as much time. They're not with me as frequently as I would like for them to be. It presents a problem too with discipline. I think a lot of people are attracted to the bigger cities because there is an income issue because you can make more in the Dallas and Houston areas."

The shortage of bilingual teachers is a problem nationwide. That's because the Spanish-speaking population is growing faster than any other minority group. And school districts like TISD are finding it hard to keep up.

Four years ago, about two out of every 10 students in TISD was Hispanic. That number has grown now to virtually three out of every 10. During these same four years, the percentage of Caucasian students has declined, while the percentage of African-Americans has remained about the same.

TISD has been looking as far as Mexico and Spain to recruit bilingual teachers. But Perez believes Tyler ISD can find potential teachers by looking inside the district itself.

"Encouraging our high school students to go into education. A lot of people are not going into education because it's not economically beneficial. But it is a huge blessing for those of us that are doing it."

For Perez, it's a joy to see her students find success in our increasingly bilingual state.

TISD says it only hires bilingual teachers who are certified, not just people who speak both English and Spanish. The district says bilingual teachers are paid more because the demand for their skills is higher.

Julie Tam, reporting.

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