Dual-Language Bill Passed!

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Washington’s classrooms are quickly growing more diverse, but our educational systems often haven’t changed quickly enough to reflect that diversity. But OneAmerica, our members and a powerful bipartisan coalition of legislators, educators, community organizations and businesses want to change that.

This month, Washington took a huge step toward an education system that meets the needs of all students with the signing SHB 1445 into law. SHB 1445 creates a comprehensive approach to dual-language instruction for K-12 students, and is a pioneering model for culturally relevant education that both preserves student’s home languages and gives students who might otherwise have grown up only speaking English an opportunity to become bilingual.

By October, school districts across Washington will be able to apply for grants to help them implement their own dual-language education programs. When he signed the bill into law, Governor Inslee stated his ambition to have every Washington student graduate bi-lingual and bi-literate by 2026.

We’ve seen the benefits of dual language learning in classrooms across the country. Kids perform better in reading and mathematics. Non-native English speakers learn English much more rapidly in a dual-language setting. And in Washington, three school districts that have been teaching their students in two languages since 2015 have seen great success in education outcomes.

With this law, our state has expanded its commitment to honoring the strengths and assets of immigrant and refugee students in the classroom, and showcased the power that immigrant and refugee communities have in fighting for the best for their kids. Now, a whole new generation students will grow up with the benefits of being able to speak multiple languages – benefits that include increased cognitive capacity, better cultural understanding, better academic performance, and a language skill that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

This victory could not have happened without the tireless efforts of our grassroots leaders, advocates, educators and legislative champions who never lost sight of their goal of providing the very best education for all Washington students. Together, we attended school board meetings; we wrote letters to our legislators; we held meetings with the Office of Superintendent of Public Education; and we traveled to Olympia to bring the case for dual-language education to the halls of power.

We’re so excited to see this law implemented and we’ll continue to organize and fight to ensure that all communities receive the very best education for their kids. Because we know that our communities are stronger and our kids learn better when cultures are honored and languages are preserved.

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