TESOL International Association has pledged its support for the bipartisan Reaching English Learners Act (H.R. 1153, S. 545). The legislation would create a grant program for colleges and universities under Title II Part B of the Higher Education Act to support the development of teacher preparation programs that train future teachers to instruct ELs. To secure a grant, higher education institutions would be required to partner with local education agencies to build or strengthen teaching programs that provide qualified teacher candidates with skills related to:
- Helping ELs in prekindergarten, elementary, and secondary school programs: (1) achieve at high academic levels and meet state standards adopted under ESSA; and (2) attain English proficiency;
- Recognizing and addressing the social and emotional needs of ELs;
- Appropriately identifying and instructing ELs with disabilities; and
- Promoting parental, family, and community engagement in EL educational programs.
“With a growing population of more than five million English learners in U.S. schools, and a critical shortage of qualified English language teachers, this bipartisan legislation will go a long way in helping to improve the readiness of future teachers, as well as the educational experiences of some of our most vulnerable students,” said Christopher Powers, executive director of TESOL International Association.
First introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representative Jim Langevin (D-Rhode Island), the bill is co-sponsored by Representatives Will Hurd (R-Texas), Adriano Espaillat (D-New York), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), and Jimmy Gomez (D-California). In the U.S. Senate, a companion bill was introduced by Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada) and is co-sponsored by Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas).
Addressing the bill’s significance and impact on English learners and teachers, Representative Langevin explained, “As the number of English learners continues to increase across the nation, this bill will provide crucial resources to ensure the teachers of tomorrow are equipped with the necessary skills to help them succeed academically. English learners have enormous potential, and I am excited to work with leaders like Senator Cortez Masto and Congressmen Espaillat and Hurd to ensure these students can thrive.”
Senator Cortez Masto introduced the Senate version of the bill after hearing directly from a Washoe County School District teacher about the challenges facing educators who work with ELs.
“Ten percent of public school students in the U.S. are English learners. That means 10% of public school students face a language gap that puts them at risk of falling behind academically,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “I’ve introduced this bill to address the critical English language teacher shortage and help make sure that English learners have the resources they need to learn on equal footing with their peers.”
Joining Senator Cortez Masto in introducing the bill were Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York), Michael Bennet (D-Colorado), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland), Kamala Harris (D-California), Dianne Feinstein (D-California), and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii).
The act has also been endorsed by UnidosUS, National Association for Bilingual Education, the NEA, the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, Joint National Committee for Languages, American Federation of Teachers, and Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents.