Congress Creates New K-12 World Languages Grant Program

On December 9, 2019, the House and Senate agreed to establish a new world language grant program as a part of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The program, called the World Language Advancement and Readiness Program, directs the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Education to create a competitive grant program for the establishment, improvement, or expansion of world language study for elementary school and secondary school students. Eligibility for the program includes 1) local educational agencies that hosts a unit of the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, and 2) schools operated by the Department of Defense Education Activity. (Section 1751, p. 1659 - 1662, FY20 NDAA)

Sec. 1623. increases the annual funding levels for the National Flagship Language Initiative. This section amends the David L. Boren National Security Education Act of 1991 for FY 2020 by increasing the funding levels from $10m to $16m. Learn more about the Language Flagship on their website.

Sec. 366. requires the Department of Defense to include foreign language proficiency in readiness reporting systems. Specifically, it states that “the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of each military department shall include in the Global Readiness and Force Management Enterprise, for the appropriate billets with relevant foreign language requirements, measures of foreign language proficiency as a mandatory element of unit readiness reporting, to include the Defense Readiness Reporting Systems-Strategic (DRRS-S) and all other subordinate systems that report readiness data.”

Sec. 1219. Modification and extension of the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Program. The modification add 4,000 visa slots for Afghans who worked with the American military to immigrate to the United States.

The Defense Language Improvement (DLI) Act was not included in the Senate version of the bill. The bipartisan bill would have authorized DLIFLC to confer a Bachelor of Arts degree in a world language upon any graduate who fulfills the degree requirements. Currently, DLIFLC may only award an Associate of Arts degree in world language study. This is not the end of this initiative, however. Due to such a positive response from the defense language community, JNCL-NCLIS will continue to work with the office of Rep. Jimmy Panetta (CA-20) to advance the DLI Act in next year's NDAA.

While Defense Language Training Centers received a $15 million increase for in the defense appropriations, no additional funding increase was included the Defense Language and National Security Education Office (DLNSEO) to provide support for studies related to Chinese language and culture, as was requested in the House version. The Senate version of the bill omitted this provision. (§1099G, p. 2986).

In addition, DLNSEO did not receive the requested language to develop a transition plan for institutions which severed ties with the Confucius Institutes (§1099H of the House NDAA). The conferees note that "they appreciate the Department of Defense's effort to ensure that institutions of higher education, which no longer host a Confucius Institute, may regain eligibility to receive funds from the Department for Chinese language instruction." (sec. 1099H, p. 2986).

Notably, the NDAA Committee Conferees included two members of the America's Languages Caucus:

  • Congressman Jim Cooper of Tennessee
  • Congressman Gil Cisneros of California

Source: The National Defense Authorization Act FY20 - Conference Committee Report (PDF)

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