Much of Nebraska is rural and agricultural, but even isolated community school districts are having to deal with students for whom English is a second language. Jess Wolf, president of the Nebraska State Education Association, says America’s said to be a nation of immigrants, and the Husker State’s very much following suit.
“We have a lot of students coming to our schools now who are English language learners and it’s becoming a major issue in a lot of school districts across the state, not just those four or five that you typically would expect that to happen but nearly every school district has to deal with that somewhat,” Wolf says.
Some of Nebraska’s larger communities have been dealing with E-S-L classes for decades, but Wolf says in recent years, the trend has spread. He says towns with packing plants saw major influxes of people who don’t speak English, but it’s bleeding over into other areas of the state, too.
Even the tiny northeast Nebraska town of Hartington, where Wolf used to teach, never dealt with that issue until recently. In most communities, school districts only need to locate English language instructors for Spanish-speaking students, but Wolf says elsewhere, the world has truly settled in Nebraska.
“In Omaha and Lincoln, for instance, they have 38 or 40 different languages they need to deal with and we’ve had a major influx of Sudanese in the state in the last few years as well and I know there are school districts that need to deal with that language difference,” Wolf says. While Spanish is the primary language, there are many other tongues being spoken in the state’s schools.
Wolf is due back in Nebraska later today. He’s been in Washington D.C. for the past week to attend the annual conference of the National Education Association.