The Jefferson Parish school system will step up its efforts to recruit bilingual teachers by offering a bonus and a stipend to educators who teach a large number of students who don’t speak English as their first language.

The School Board unanimously approved a measure by board member Ella Licciardi that would give teachers who speak Spanish, Vietnamese or Arabic a signing bonus of $2,000 and a $3,000 yearly stipend if they are “currently serving a large percentage of bilingual students.”

Licciardi said the measure was necessary to boost the number of bilingual teachers in light of the growing number of students in the parish who speak English as a second language.

Recruiting teachers with those types of qualifications can be difficult and “competition is fierce,” Superintendent James Meza said. The Dallas school district offers a $6,000 bonus and a $6,000 stipend, he said.

“This is something we definitely need. It’s something that will contribute greatly to academic achievement,” Meza said. “The challenge of children coming to Louisiana and being held to the standards of high-stakes testing is great.”

Exactly how the program will be implemented will be worked out by the administration. That will include determining how to quantify when a teacher has a large percentage of bilingual students, where the money will come from and how to determine a teacher’s competency in the foreign language.

The stipend also will be available to teachers already working for the district.

Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.