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English-Learner Advocate Appointed to California Board of Education

A coalition of civil rights, social justice, and English-language-learner advocacy groups is celebrating the appointment of longtime language-learner advocate Feliza Ortiz-Licon to Califonia's state board of education.

Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Ortiz-Licon, the senior director of K-12 education for the National Council of La Raza, to the panel this month

"With her experience at National Council of La Raza and work supporting English learners at the local, state, and national levels, Ortiz-Licon will bring a wealth of experience and a much needed perspective to the State Board of Education," Ryan Smith, executive director of Education Trust-West said in a statement. "We are thrilled that the Governor has recognized the importance of nominating an English learner advocate and taken such a crucial step forward in the work of ensuring all of California's students have the resources they need to achieve at high levels."

Before her current job, Ortiz-Licon worked for six years as La Raza's regional director of education for California and the Far West, as a policy director for a member of the Los Angeles Unified school board, and a teacher in the Long Beach school system.

Ed Trust-West estimates that almost a third of the nation's language-learners live in California. Veteran state school board member Aida Molina has taught English-learners and is a member of the California Association of Bilingual Educators.

"This shows that if we can get it right in California, we can get it right in other in other states," Smith in an interview with Education Week.

In January, leaders in 20 nonprofit organizations wrote to Brown, asking him to consider the importance of appointing a champion for ELLs, the fastest-growing segment of the nation's student population. The groups included Ed Trust-West, California Association for Bilingual Education, California Latino School Board Association, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, American Civil Liberties Union of California and Californians Together, the group that spearheaded the national push for biliteracy.

"It is critical to have someone on the State Board of Education with expert knowledge of best practices for serving students who speak multiple languages if we are going to close achievement gaps between English learners and their native English speaking peers," a portion of their letter read. "We now need a voice who will be diligent about ensuring these resources are effective and reach EL students as intended."

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