Language bill may get bipartisan stamp of approval

By Glenn Wallace


Foster Elementary in Arvada is one of six dual language elementary school in the Jefferson County School District, teaching students both English- and Spanish-language skills. But even if the students from that program continue their language studies throughout middle and high school, mastering two languages as they apply for jobs and colleges, their high school diplomas look the same as everyone else’s.

A bipartisan bill that might receive approval from the Colorado House of Representatives in the coming days could change that, representing a win for language-learning students by making Colorado the 22nd state to approve the addition of a special bilingual seal on high school diplomas.

“It really just sets the standard across the state for what you need to show that you are bilingual,” said Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, D-Arvada, one of the bill’s primary sponsors. “It ensures employers that they know what they’re getting. Colleges, too.”

The bill’s other Senate sponsor is Kevin Priola, R-Henderson. In the House, the bill is sponsored by Democrat Millie Hamner from Summit County and James Wilson, R-Salida.

Last year, the bill passed the State House only to see it stall out in the Senate. Zenzinger, who was elected to the Senate in November said that since the bill has already passed the Senate “nearly unanimously,” and has bipartisan support, it should have no problem passing the House before the end of this legislative session.

If approved, the bill would allow school districts in Colorado to add a special bilingual seal to the high school diploma of any student who shows proficiency in English, as well as a “world language,” a term that includes traditional foreign languages, American Sign Language and could even include the languages of indigenous cultures.

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