Despite the tough realities, we’re finally taking education seriously: Governor Gina Raimondo is pushing for universal Pre-K, her administration wants to end student hunger and we, as voters, chose to support a bond to rebuild our schools and ensure safe environments for teachers and students.

But something’s missing and we need to take this opportunity to address it: Rhode Island is severely undeserving its non-native English speaking students — primarily the state’s Latino children who rank dead last in the nation. It’s clear that linguistic and economic boundaries intersect with the academic, social and emotional success for English language learners, but we should value the linguistic diversity of Rhode Island’s emergent bilingual population as an achievement and asset — not as a deficit.

All students from every town, neighborhood and block in Rhode Island should be learning another language so they can enhance their cognitive skills and cultural literacy and eventually steer their career pathways that prepare them towards an ever evolving global market. In tandem, we can address issues of social justice head on by ensuring non-native English speakers receive dual language instruction that values and develops their language of heritage while making sure they receive the English proficiency they need for educational achievement.

Likewise, native English speaking students should be learning a second language to enhance their own academic rigor and future career opportunities. Bilingual standards for all Rhode Island students can also bridge equity gaps between class and race by “de-othering” linguistic and cultural backgrounds. An increase in world language and dual language programs across the board can help us to overcome our divisions while celebrating our differences as Rhode Islanders.

We need to take this important moment in Rhode Island’s educational history to support all students for a growing multilingual world. The World Language/Dual Language Bill (Senate Bill No. 198 and House Bill No. 5192) would go a long way to ensure proper funding for immersion programs via the  institution of permanent world language leadership at RIDE that would lend itself to establishing exemplary models for bilingual success.

Whether it’s an elementary school Latinx student from South Providence that would benefit from dual language instruction or a high schooler from North Providence learning Italian to tap into her roots; The World Language/Dual Language Bill will help our state to achieve academic excellence while double downing on instruction that opens doors for emergent bilingual students.

I hope you’ll join me in support of these bills and advocate for state-level support for a #MultilingualRI at RI’s first Multilingual Education Advocacy Day at the State House on Tuesday, April 23, 2019 from 3:00-5:00pm.