Questions Remain Over Law Requiring Teachers to be ESL Certified

Local News

The Texas Education Agency now requiring every English learning student to be taught by a certified bilingual teacher, causing some confusion and stress for teachers in the Brownsville Independent School District.

“We are working with our teachers to provide them with more time by submitting a waiver to TEA, we are providing our teachers with that opportunity to get bilingually or ESL certified,” said Carlos Olvera, BISD Bilingual Education/ESL Administrator. 

The district is offering prep courses to prepare teachers for the state test that they need to pass in order to get certified.

Teachers attending the prep course will be compensated $150.

“You would need to make sure that you try, but we understand that we would facilitate that process by providing those sessions for ESL or bilingual and providing that stipend and reimbursement to get you bilingual or ESL certified,” Olvera said. 

Texas certification tests cost around $130 per test. BISD teachers who pass the exam will be reimbursed, but it is not certain if teachers who fail the test will be reimbursed.
For now, a local teacher union believes that it would be in the best interest of the teachers to not hurry to get certified, and wait for more clear instruction. 

“The superintendent Dr. Zendejas, sent an email out to all employees saying it was not mandatory at this time to get the certification, that teachers who did not get the certification may be reassigned to campuses within the district,” said Patrick Hammes, leader with a teacher union, Brownsville Educators Stand Together. 

“With our conversation with Dr. Zendejas, the priority is on Lopez, Rivera, Porter High School, more the southmost area, more the more dominant Spanish-speaking. Teachers who do not have the certification in those campuses may be reassigned to the northern campuses, Hanna, Veterans, Pace, and vice versa. People that have a certification at those schools may be reassigned to the southern most schools,” Hammes said. 

The waiver that the district applied for will allow time for teachers to attempt to get certified by the end of the academic year 

The Brownsville Independent School District Human Resource Department also updated job postings to show a prerequisite ESL Supplemental Certification. 

In an email, a representative of the Texas Education Agency told News Center 23, “I cannot address what the district is telling its employees – local districts have the authority to implement their own policies above and beyond state statute.” 

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