December 1, 2017
State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Meets with Mexican Education Leaders to Find Ways of Assisting Students from Both Nations
SACRAMENTO – State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson continued his efforts today to increase cooperation with Mexico to better serve California students who end up attending school on both sides of the border. He met with leaders of Baja California’s education system, including Miguel Ángel Mendoza González, the Secretary of Education for the State of Baja California, and visited schools in Tijuana.
Officials from both nations are exploring practical ways to better serve these shared students by making it easier to share student records, encouraging more teachers in both nations to be trained in bilingual teaching, and expanding teacher exchanges between Mexico and California to promote bilingual education.
“It is so important at this time to let the people of Baja California and Mexico know that we are extending the hand of friendship,” said Torlakson. “By working together, we can improve the education of students who formerly attended schools in California and may eventually return to California. We can also help meet the needs of Mexican born children attending school in California,” he said. “We are a strong team together! Somos un equipo fuerte!”
An estimated 50,000 U.S. born students are attending school in Baja California. Many are from California. These students returned with their families for a variety of reasons, including economic, family, and, in some cases, due to deportation.
When the students enroll in Mexican schools, they are often disoriented. Many of these students are not fluent in Spanish and not familiar with the Mexican culture and schools.
The number of these students could increase. Under President Trump, deportation orders increased 31 percent from February 1, 2017, through July 31, 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
California has an estimated 300,000 students who are undocumented, while another one million students live with one parent or guardian who is undocumented.
To ease their fears and anxieties, Torlakson has been a champion of the “Safe Haven” movement, designed to reassure students and parents that they are welcome at school, regardless of immigration status, and to inform them that the law does not allow schools to divulge student immigration status, except under limited circumstances.
Torlakson wants to expand the California Department of Education (CDE) teacher exchange program, which places Spanish-speaking teachers from Mexico and other nations in California public school classrooms. Demand for bilingual instruction is projected to increase because California voters last year approved Proposition 58, which removed outdated barriers to bilingual and multilingual instruction.
Torlakson toured two schools in Tijuana and met with teachers, students, and administrators. The visit was a follow-up to his meeting earlier this year with education leaders in Mexico City.
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Tom Torlakson —
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100