August 1, 2013

Louisiana Legislation Supports French, Dual Immersion


French Boost in Louisiana
July 31, 2013

After Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal vetoed $100,000 funding for the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL) during last year’s budget vetoes, French-speaking state lawmakers sought new ways to promote Louisiana’s francophone heritage.

In the recently ended legislative session, that bipartisan group of lawmakers filed and won passage of bills that celebrate the state’s Cajun culture and French roots. The measures promote language immersion programs at public schools, raise funds for CODOFIL, and allow Cajuns to stamp their heritage on their license plates and driver’s licenses.

Louisiana drivers will now be able to get “I’m a Cajun” stamped on their driver’s licenses for a $5 annual fee, or new license plates declaring “I’m Cajun… and proud” or “I’m a Creole… and proud” for an extra $15 a year. Fees will go to CODOFIL to pay for scholarships through a program that trains new French teachers for Louisiana schools.

The most far-reaching legislation creates the Immersion School Choice Act, which sets up a parent-trigger law to establish programs that teach public school children in another language, usually French or Spanish.

The bill will require local school boards to create a dual-language immersion program for students if parents of at least 25 kindergarten students in the school district sign a petition seeking the program. For the law to kick in, qualified teachers also will have to be available — and no other immersion program can already exist in the district.

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