Florida Governor Vetoes Bill About ESL Teacher Training

By Mary Ann Zehr — June 29, 2007 1 min read
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Florida Governor Charlie Crist vetoed a bill this week that would have decreased the number of in-service hours in the area of English as a second language required of reading teachers who work with English-language learners.

“I am concerned that this reduction may impede these students’ academic, social, and cultural progress,” he said of the measure in his June 28 letter explaining his veto. The bill would have reduced the amount of required professional development to 60 hours from 300 hours. (I’ve taken the link to the veto letter from the Institute of Language and Education Policy site.) Gov. Crist also mentioned in his explanation of the veto that he’d received a letter from the Florida Hispanic Legislative Caucus expressing concerns about the bill.

Rosa Castro Feinberg, a retired associate professor of curriculum and instruction at Florida International University, told me today she is “ecstatic” that the Republican governor rejected the bill. She thinks it would have lessened the quality of education for English-language learners in Florida. As the manager of a listserv affiliated with the Sunshine State TESOL of Florida, Ms. Feinberg was a leader in a campaign to convince the governor to veto it. See my earlier post, “Florida Teachers Disagree on Amount of Preparation for Reading Teachers.”

However, Constance Higginbotham, the president of the Clay County Education Association, a group that worked to get the bill introduced and approved by the Florida legislature, said she is disappointed that, in her view, “Gov. Crist did not listen to reading teachers.” She said in a phone interview today, “He listened to Hispanic groups. There are 247 languages spoken in the state of Florida--and he contacted only the Hispanics.”

She added: “When I send my children to school, I want them to have an expert in whatever subject they are studying. I don’t think every teacher needs to be certified in [English as a second language]. I want a math teacher who is certified in math. I want a reading teacher who is certified in reading.”

This policy debate about how much training regular teachers should have to work with English-language learners will continue to pop up in various states, I think.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.