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More than 2.3 million California TK-12 public school students bring a linguistic asset with them to school every day: living in homes where a language other than English is spoken. A majority of these students (1.2 million) demonstrate English proficiency during their school years. But, students’ home language skills are often neglected at school due to California’s shortage of bilingual education teachers. Neglecting students’ language assets means they may not become biliterate, causing them to miss out on numerous advantages biliteracy provides such as cognitive benefits and increased competitiveness once students enter the workplace.

To help students achieve biliteracy, California must address its shortage of adequately trained bilingual education teachers. The magnitude of this shortage can be assessed by looking at the number of teachers who have been authorized to teach bilingually in recent years, which pales in comparison to the number of TK-12 students who live in homes where languages other than English are spoken. Specifically, a large imbalance exists between 1) the number of students who live in homes where one of the top 10 languages is spoken and 2) teachers who earned an authorization to teach in those languages from 2012-13 to 2021-22 (See Table).

The bilingual teacher shortage is a significant obstacle for California students to achieve biliteracy. One step the Legislature can take to address this shortage is reinstating the Bilingual Teacher Professional Development Program (BTPDP), which expired in June 2021. Last year, the California Department of Education reported the BTPDP “was very successful and helped address a critical teacher shortage area that is in high demand.” The Legislature should fund the BTPDP and build on its success, especially to help the millions of California TK-12 students with home language assets achieve biliteracy.

Demand for TK-12 Bilingual Education Teachers Outstrips Supply in California

LanguageStudents from Homes Where a Language Other Than English Is SpokenBilingual Authorizations Issued from 2012-13 Through 2021-22Student-to-Bilingual Authorization Ratio
Spanish 1,802,4207,518239.7
Mandarin 67,712436155.3

*Note: A bilingual authorization authorizes teachers to deliver instruction in languages other than English and does not include teaching intern credentials, permits, and waivers.

Source: California Department of Education and California Commission on Teacher Credentialing

Support for this report was provided by the Sobrato Family Foundation and the Stuart Foundation.

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