bilingual students
Gov. John Hickenlooper signs into a law a bill to encourage students to master more than one language. (Photo courtesy of the New American Economy)
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New business-backed law rewards bilingual Colorado students

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A new law will reward bilingual high school students, if they prove they can speak, understand and write a second language in addition to English, a move heartily endorsed by business and education groups.

Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the Senate Bill 123 Thursday to making Colorado the 25th state to adopt the Seal of Biliteracy for high school diplomas.

Senate Bill 123 was co-sponsored by Republican Sen. Kevin Priola of Henderson and Democratic Sen. Rachel Zenzinger of Arvada. In the House it was sponsored by Reps. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, and Jim Wilson, R-Salida.

The voluntary program takes effect for the next school year.

The New American Economy and Colorado Association for Bilingual Education were among the groups that supported the legislation.

“With the governor’s signature school districts in our state will now be able to publicly recognize and credential academic achievement in the study of foreign languages,” Priola said in a statement.

“Our quickly globalizing economy demands a workforce that is able to proficiently communicate with clients and customers in many languages. The seal of biliteracy will give companies looking to move to Colorado the confidence that Colorado has a workforce ready to meet their needs.”

A press release from the New American Economy, the politics and business coalition, said:

“The Seal of Biliteracy program creates a tangible incentive for high school students to become proficient in a second language. Numerous studies show learning a second language can enhance a student’s cognitive development, equip them with greater cultural understanding, and help them develop the skills necessary to become active global citizens. Business leaders in the state expressed their support for the program during the legislative process because it will help Colorado students prepare to enter an increasingly globalized job market.”

The coalition said its research indicates a need for language diversity in Colorado’s workforce “among both foreign-born and U.S.-born workers.”

According to a report called “Language Diversity and the Workforce: The Growing Need for Bilingual Workers in Colorado’s Economy”:

  • Between 2010 and 2014, online job postings in Colorado for bilingual candidates nearly doubled, from 2,892 to 5,092 postings. Demand also increased for Chinese (147.7 percent increase), Spanish (87.4 percent increase) and French (66.9 percent increase).
  • In 2014, jobs for bilingual workers represented half or more of online job postings at Bank Midwest (81 percent), Advance Auto Parts, Inc. (62.9 percent), and Carquest (49.7 percent); more than one in four of the postings at Greeley (27.3 percent) and Denver Health (25.2 percent); and more than one in ten at T Mobile (18.9 percent), U.S. Bancorp (16.9 percent), and Mental Health Center of Denver (16.4 percent).
  • Between 2010 and 2014, postings for bilingual candidates increased across Colorado Industries, including: General Medical and Surgical Hospitals (361.7 percent), Executive, Legislative, and Other General Government Support (240 percent), Elementary and Secondary Schools (193.2 percent), Outpatient Care Centers (102.6 percent), Depository Credit Intermediation (90.6 percent), Insurance Carriers (86 percent), Business Support Services (52.7 percent), and Traveler Accommodation (3.4 percent).



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