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Florida Governor Vetoes Bill About ESL Teacher Training


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.


Understanding teacher requirements can be confusing. In Florida, teachers begin to take ESOL training ONLY when an English Language Learner enters their classroom. So it is factually incorrect to suggest all teachers need to be certified in ESOL.

It is also factually incorrect that only Hispanic groups were involved in asking for a veto. Professional organizations, community organizations, and individuals that represent a broad cross section of ethnicities and races concerned with the academic success of English Language Learners. Here is a list of organizations that supported the veto:

Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL, Inc.)
National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE)
Joint National Committee for Languages (JNCL)
National Council for Languages and International Studies (NCLIS)
Center for Applied Linguistics (LIME)
Institute for Language and Education Policy
ASPIRA Association
National Council of La Raza ((NCLR)
League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
Cuban American National Council (CNC)


Sunshine State TESOL of Florida (SST)
Bilingual Association of Florida (BAF)
Florida Association of Bilingual and ESOL Supervisors (FABES)
Florida League of United Latin American Citizens (Florida LULAC)
Florida Chapter of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People)
Coalition of Florida Farmworker Organizations (COFFO)


Superintendent Rudy Crew, M-DCPS
Miami-Dade School Board Member Ana Rivas Logan (R)
Former Miami-Dade School Board Member, Frank Cobo (D)
Dave Lawrence, Concerned Citizen
Spanish American League Against Discrimination (SALAD)
Sant La Haitian Neighborhood Center
Centro Campesino
Hispanic Coalition
American Hispanic Educators Association of Dade (AHEAD)

Two points. First, the complaint that Governor Crist listened only to concerns of Hispanic educators in making his decision to veto SB 2512 is simply inaccurate. The fact is that more than 20 national, state, and local organizations representing a broad range of diverse learners supported this veto. They all supported the veto because it was a bad bill that would have weakened the preparation of reading teachers to work with English language learners (ELLs) from all linguistic and cultural backgrounds. The potential negative consequences of this legislation were clear, and this governor has shown repeatedly that he is willing to consider the interests of those who do not have a strong voice nationally or in Tallahassee.
Second, the Clay County educator who wants her children to be taught by qualified teachers in every subject is right. Her children deserve highly qualified teachers, and so do children who are learning English as their second language. Reading teachers are required to have a 300-hour (add-on) endorsement in ESOL if they have ESOL students in their classrooms, but they do not need to be certified in ESOL. An ESOL endorsement should prepare them to work effectively as teachers of reading to ELLs. ESOL is more than just good teaching, and good ESOL professional development should address the specialized knowledge and skill they will need to be highly qualified teachers of ELLs.

The Republican Governor of Florida did the right thing in vetoing the bill that would have greatly reduced the amount of special training that mainstream teachers are required to have if they teach ELLs. Now, if we could just find teacher trainers who have actually taught ELLs in the public schools and have some real expertise on the subject! They should be the ones teaching those in-service courses. We need highly qualified teacher trainers for teachers of ELLs.

Here's my story.

I took 156 hours of ESOL training in 95 and 96. It was nothing more than sensitivity training. I teach Kindergarten. There is no one more sensitive than me.

Last year, I had my first student who spoke only Spanish. Her parents did not fill out Language Survey correctly, because....surprise, they couldn't read it. After two weeks I was able to get them in school, I brought a friend from Mexico who translated for them. We brought them to the office, and they filled form out again. Child was then tested and qualifed for program.

Now - If I would have kept my mouth shut, I could have retained the child (because first form filled out said they spoke English), and been on my merry way. But, nooooooooo, I was sensitive, I did the right thing. Now I have been "tagged" as teaching a child out of field.

Then after calling ESOL office I have found out that I must take my 148 hours plus an additonal 60 hours since classes I took were before 2003.

To add icing to the cake, classes are only offered after school, with NO pay. I HATE these stupid, stupid classes. Right across the street from me is a middle and high school. Those teachers need to take 18 hours.

Where is the Union? Why can't I get paid for these classes?

Oh, and don't forget I get to pay an additional $50 to add it to my certificate!!!

Do police officers take ESOL classes without pay?


After reading Charles Stansfield's note, I understand why he promotes ESOL Training for teachers in the state of Florida...He has a vested interest.

Check out his web site!

I teach in N Fla and am required to take ESOL (300 hrs) and I have no ELL students....
All teachers in my district who teach reading to anyone are required to have 300 hrs or lose their job.

Responding to Pete Mehaffy. If your school district in North Florida requires you to take 300 hours and you have no ELLs students, then your district is providing incorrect information. That is not the legal requirement, nor has it ever been the legal requirement anywhere in the State of Florida. It sounds like your district has a problem.

To be a reading teacher in the State of Florida, there are requirements. Only ONE requires 300 hours of training. Teachers have some choices. Again, there must be some type of problem in North Florida that the correct information is not getting out.

Rochelle keeps posting comments on blogs that state local districts have problems. Well, if local districts have problems all over the state then the solution is to pass an ESOL reform bill. Also, if someone has a bad idea in one district the way to keep it from spreading around is to have a state law preventing it. That's the benefit and in fact design of the system of government we have. Yes, many, many districts have problems. That's why we need Sen. Wise's ESOL reform bill S 296. Call Stephen Wise and tell him thanks for caring about teachers! (904) 381-6000

I’m having a problem removing my child from the ESOL program. My child only speaks and understands English. I understand this is a great program for children that need it, My child is not one of them. I have talked to all the teachers and we have all agreed this program is not for him also he has taken a test that he passed and still no resolutions I real need help removing him from this program

When an ELL student exits the program and enters two years of followup, is the student required to be with ESOL endorsed teachers?

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