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Garcia, Ortiz pitch legislation aimed at recruiting bilingual teachers of color

The proposals would provide financial aid for prospective public school teachers and bilingual high school graduates.

State Rep. Aaron Ortiz, from left, Miguel del Valle, president of the Chicago Board of Education; Janice Jackson, chief executive of Chicago Public Schools; and Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia at a news conference in Brighton Park. February 3, 2020.
State Rep. Aaron Ortiz, from left, Miguel del Valle, president of the Chicago Board of Education; Janice Jackson, chief executive of Chicago Public Schools; and Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia at a news conference Monday in Brighton Park.
Carlos Ballesteros/Sun-Times

U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, D-Ill., and state Rep. Aaron Ortiz, D-Chicago, pitched their plans Monday to moms and community leaders in Brighton Park to increase the number of bilingual public school teachers.

Both legislators have introduced bills to increase financial aid for prospective public school teachers and bilingual high school graduates.

Ortiz introduced a bill last week in the Illinois General Assembly that would provide a yearly $5,000 college grant for up to 800 high school students who graduate with a state seal of biliteracy, as measured by standardized tests administered by the state.

Garcia’s bill in the House would double the maximum federal college grants for prospective public school teachers to $8,000 a year.

Both pieces of legislation are designed to work in tandem to create a “stable homegrown pipeline” of educators that reflect the needs of the state’s diverse student body, Ortiz said.

“There are many students of color, many of them bilingual, who face challenges accessing a public education, specifically around affordability,” Ortiz said. “This bill tries to address that.”

While Ortiz said he expects to gain support for his bill in Springfield, a divided Congress is unlikely to pass Garcia’s side of the equation anytime soon.

“If it doesn’t happen this year, you can bet we’re coming back next year when the likelihood of legislation passing out of both chambers will increase dramatically after the presidential and congressional election” in November, Garcia said.

Garcia and Ortiz were joined Monday by CPS Chief Executive Janice Jackson and Miguel del Valle, president of the Chicago Board of Education.

About 83% of students in CPS are either black or Latino, compared to 42% of teachers. Nearly one in five students in the district is considered an English learner.

Nationwide, 20% of public school teachers are nonwhite and nearly 10% of public school students are English learners, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Carlos Ballesteros is a corps member of Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of Chicago’s South Side and West Side.