More than 5,000 English learners have enrolled in Chicago Public Schools over the course of the year, many of whom are the children of migrant families.
The influx is shining a spotlight on the shortage of bilingual instructors and services at schools.
The Chicago Teachers Union is calling for federal support to help tackle the issue.
Linda Perales is an organizer with the union who helped pull together these efforts. She said teachers have long had to find new ways to support their English-learning students and federal funds could go a long way in helping them.
“The money would help immensely to get these resources, this curriculum, the educators, the TAs into the classroom,” Perales said. “Right now we’re seeing our teachers that are collecting coats, collecting boots, collecting scarves, they’re doing everything.”
Rebecca Vonderlack-Navarro, vice president of education policy and research at the Latino Policy Forum, said when students who need English language support received it in their education, they outperformed the system.
“So these kids can and will do well,” Vonderlack-Navarro said. “But we need the teachers, and we need the resources to support them. And that’s going to be critical to support this, support these students and support their future.”
Finding ways to support bilingual instruction is more urgent now than ever, Perales said.
“There’s definitely the need for a pipeline of bilingual educators to reach the classroom because we are seeing that there is that need,” Perales said. “And additionally, like I mentioned, TAs that can support in schools right now where the support is immediate because to go through that pipeline, to go through a program, takes a few years, but we need support in the classroom, right in this moment.”