Bilingual Education Laws in Illinois

Instructor: Vericia Miller
In this lesson, you will learn what bilingual education is, how it has evolved over the decades, and how programs are protected by certain laws in the state of Illinois.

Bilingual Education In the State of Illinois

The Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary defines bilingual education as an English language school system in which students with little fluency in English are taught in both their native language and in English. The whole purpose behind bilingual education is to encourage and promote bilingualism. According to proponents of bilingual education, it benefits students to be able to speak multiple languages. Bilingualism promotes a continued awareness of pride in one's culture, while allowing one to also communicate in a language most often used here in America, English. A neuroscientist named Ellen Bialystok spoke on the subject in an interview with the New York Times in 2011. During the interview she stated that being able to speak a second language has many benefits, some of which include improved brain function and multitasking ability, and even delaying of symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.

Illinois is a great state to talk about bilingual education. Typically when you think about bilingual education or bilingual language speakers, California or Texas may come to mind, since there is a large Latino population in both states. However, the State of Illinois is also a large state with a very sizable Spanish-speaking population. Let's narrow it down even more. The City of Chicago is very diverse with many people of various races and ethnicities. According to the Census Bureau Report of 2010, Chicago has a 45% White population, 32.9% Black population, and a 28% Latino population. Here are just a few more important stats for you: in 2009 the Huffington Post reported that there are 50 million Latinos living in the US today, and there are approximately 35 million residents over the age of five who speak Spanish in the home. Based on this information, it is no wonder why bilingual education is such a hot button topic today.

History of Bilingual Education In Illinois

Illinois has experienced different waves of immigration from a multitude of groups at various times throughout American history. During the late 19th century, Chicago experienced immigration from mostly people of European descent: Polish and German immigrants. During that time, the goal for immigrants was to assimilate into their new culture, even if that meant leaving their first/native language behind. Also during this time, there were lots of people who were intolerant and upset about the large wave of new immigration into the city. English-only laws were passed to enforce the shift to American culture.

During the mid 20th century, the Hispanic population, particularly the Mexican population, began to grow in Chicago. To this day, of all Latino groups, Mexicans continue to be the largest group in the city. Consequently, bilingual education became even more important. In 1968, the very first piece of federal legislation was passed to address the issue of bilingual education in schools. The law was called the Bilingual Education Act of 1968. It was passed to promote the development of bilingual education programs in elementary and high schools across the country. By the 1970's, there were thousands of students enrolled in over 60 bilingual programs in the state of Illinois. It is important to note that this federal law was not only meant to target Latino children. Bilingual education is not for Spanish speaking students only, but for children who speak other languages like Polish, German, Korean, etc.

Illinois Bilingual Education Law

In 2009, then IL Gov. Quinn signed legislation (HB-3819) that would make bilingual education in the State of Illinois stronger and more efficient. This law provides funding to bilingual programs in schools in order to strengthen a student's fluency in both languages. The law also mandates that schools' bilingual education programs are monitored and evaluated for quality, performance, and outcomes. Under this law 'parent academies' were also established to influence more parents to get involved in their child's education.

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