The Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee of the United States Senate has released a draft of the new Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which drops the Foreign Language Assistance Act entirely and does not contain any provisions for world languages. The Senate Committee is currently accepting public comment at the email address FixingNCLB@help.senate.gov.
The Foreign Language Assistance Act was initiated in 2001 as a part of No Child Left Behind and provides grants to state or local education agencies to fund half the yearly costs of establishing or expanding foreign language programs in elementary and secondary schools. Only about 25% of elementary schools and 58% of middle schools have foreign language programs. As the most critical ages in language learning are between 1 and 7 years old, support for elementary world language programs is important to incentivize.
Mary Kusler, the director of government relations for the National Education Association, said, "We can strongly say that this [draft] is a starting point from which we can all begin discussions. We need to ensure there are the appropriate safeguards by the federal government to ensure all students are receiving a 21st century education regardless of their zip code. But we are pleased to see measures that increase the flexibility of educators and their districts to meet the needs of their individual students, especially those with the greatest needs." To bring language learning into the conversation send an email insisting on high-quality world language programs to FixingNCLB@help.senate.gov.
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