Washington State House Democrats


Washington moves forward to expand dual language programs

OLYMPIA—This afternoon, the Legislature passed House Bill 1445, sponsored by Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self (D-Mukilteo), designed to expand dual language programming in Washington state.

This legislation aims to grow dual language programs that can help close the academic opportunity gap, foster positive identity development, and build welcoming communities that value the diversity of languages and cultures across Washington.

“How do we expect children to get ahead if they have to stop learning other subjects while they are learning English? It doesn’t have to be this way,” Ortiz-Self said. “With this bill we really can make a difference by opening more school sites and making dual language programs more available to our English Language Learners.”

Ortiz-Self’s legislation creates two-year grants to expand dual language programs for elementary and secondary students. A dual language program provides content-based instruction to students in two languages: English and a target language spoken in the local community. The goal is for students to become proficient and literate in both languages, while also meeting high academic standards in all subject areas.

“In the process of drafting this legislation I met with parents of English Language Learners, but also of monolingual students to get their views and feedback, and both groups showed interest in expanding these programs,” said Ortiz-Self.  “Many of the parents of English-only students were excited about the opportunity of their children learning another language at an early age.”

Research has shown that dual language programs are the best way to increase student achievement for English Learners, while also improving education outcomes for their peers who speak only English.

The measure also recruits bilingual individuals to become educators in dual language programs, which Rep. Ortiz-Self said is a wise investment because “expanding the state’s dual language programs to close the opportunity gap and create a bilingual workforce will make Washington state more competitive in today’s global economy.”

HB 1445 is expected to be signed into law by Governor Inslee in the coming weeks.