Many language advocates are hoping to see the Elementary and Secondary Education Act promptly picked up by the 112th Congress in January—with a new bill included. The Excellence and Innovation in Language Learning Act, introduced in July 2010 by Reps. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) and Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), proposes $400 million in funding to teach world languages to K12 students.
Language programs have declined under tight budgets and assessment constraints imposed by No Child Left Behind, says Vivien Stewart, senior advisor for education at the Asia Society. Stewart believes the need for language learning, however, has never been more important.
"These are where the jobs of the future are going to be," says Stewart, noting that more companies are going global and that there is a greater need from a national defense perspective for graduates with bilingual capabilities.
The proposed bill by Reps. Holt and Tonko includes three prongs: for the U.S. Department of Education to coordinate an effort to build up the nation’s language capacity; to develop a state coalition to recruit highly qualified language teachers; and to partner K12 schools with higher education institutions to develop a K16 model for language instruction and assessments.
"We need to empower the next generation of Americans to shape the globe, not follow it," said Rep. Tonko.
The bill is currently garnering signatures of support from superintendents and members of Congress hoping it will be included and that ESEA reauthorization will be passed in the upcoming months.
E-mail Heather Singmaster at HSingmaster@asiasociety.org for more information.