By Local State Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez
On Wednesday, June 7, 2017, the House passed H.3736, an act relative to language opportunity for our kids, a bill that I sponsored to address the disparities in school performance between English Language Learners (ELL) and their native English-speaking peers. ELL students account for 20 percent of the Massachusetts student population and that number continues to grow. In the past six years, the number of ELL students in the Commonwealth increased by 26,000. Making sure all of our students have access to the best education and an equal opportunity to succeed is a top priority and the passage of H.3736 in the House yesterday is a demonstration of that. When all of our children are set up to succeed, it is the entire Commonwealth that benefits.
The Massachusetts economy truly is a global economy that flourishes because of its diversity. A recent report by the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council found that 58 percent of Massachusetts-based Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children, and international students contributed $2.3 billion to the economy during the 2015-2016 school year. Moreover, a report done by the Boston Foundation found that “one in five city residents are from Hispanic, Latino or Brazilian background [and that] the community contributes $9 billion, or 7 percent, of the city’s gross domestic product, up from less than 3 percent three decades ago.” The way we maintain this strong economic contribution going forward is by ensuring that ELL students have access to the best education possible. Passing H.3736 demonstrates our commitment to both our children and our economy.
H.3736 moves away from the “one size fits all” approach and increases flexibility for schools, parents, and teachers. The bill establishes clear guidelines for parental involvement and requires school districts to communicate ELL options with parents so they can select the program that best meets the needs of their child. It requires more rigorous data collection, both while students are enrolled in ELL programs and after they are enrolled in regular classrooms, to ensure that schools are accountable for the success of their ELL students. Our bill also encourages effectiveness and transparency by creating a special commission to evaluate and report on school compliance with ELL requirements. This bill creates opportunities that ensure that every child in the Commonwealth has access to high quality education. I’m excited to work with the Senate and Governor Baker to move this critical legislation forward.