Immigrants and refugees from impoverished or war-torn countries have come to us, seeking the American Dream. That means the face of Iowa's population-especially its students-is changing.
The number of English Language Learner (ELL) students in Iowa has increased steadily over the years and stands at more than 25,000 today. That's an increase of nearly 100 percent over the past 10 years. In some Iowa school districts, ELL students make up 75 percent of the student body.
The number of native languages has also grown. Today, more than 100 different languages and dialects are spoken by students throughout Iowa. The change in demographics is a challenge to Iowa schools trying to teach basic skills in a multi-lingual classrooms.
State Senator Steve Sodders
It can take a long time for a student to learn English well enough to participate fully in an all-English-language classroom. The latest research suggests it takes 5 to10 years to be able to understand a language well enough to learn in that language.
Last week, the Senate voted to increase support for ELL. In this first increase since 2006, Senate File 266 extends funding for schools with English Language Learners from four to seven years. That will be an additional $1,320 per student each year. Under this bipartisan legislation, students that qualify will get seven years of ELL instruction.