Educational language policy and the new Latino diaspora in Iowa
The New Latino Diaspora is a demographic phenomenon that describes the immigration of Latinos from across Latin America to small cities and towns in the United States, which have historically not been popular destinations for Spanish speakers. As a result of this demographic shift, Iowa has experienced a 452% increase in its population of English learners (ELs) in public schools over the past 20 years. Thus, communities throughout Iowa (and the rest of the New Latino Diaspora) have struggled to put a support network in place for newcomers, including educational programs that provide educational opportunity for non-native English speakers. The purpose of this study was to examine how Iowa's educational language policy has adapted to growing numbers of ELs. Findings suggest that policymakers and educators alike have struggled to develop coherent plans for accommodating native Spanish speakers and leverage resources to enact what plans exist. While there is support at the state-level for a diversity of educational programs, including English as a second language (ESL) and bilingual education, there is very little guidance or financial support for districts. In other words, while educators have a lot of agency in determining how to educate non-native English speakers and some very industrious individuals have opened dual language schools, a more robust (funded) structure for language education is needed. We argue that the new language ecology is a linguistic and cultural resource, for both non-native English speakers and students who are currently English monolingual. Our results have implications for the future of linguistic accommodation and educational opportunity for Latinos around the Midwest.