THE Mission
AMERICA'S LANGUAGES CAUCUS:

The America’s Languages Caucus intends to set forth a national strategy to:

  • Raise awareness about the importance of world language learning and international education, particularly as it relates to our nation’s economic and national security;
     

  • Ensure adequate resources are directed towards the study of world language learning; and
     

  • Focus on improving access for students and educators who wish to participate in these fields of study, including world languages, Native American languages, and English for English learners.

The core of the Caucus’ mission comes from the five language policy recommendations outlined in the 2017 Congressionally-Commissioned Report on Language Learning: America’s Languages: Investing in Language Education for the 21st Century. This inclusive and representative report makes clear that the United States needs significantly more bilingual and biliterate citizens to help ensure national security, promote economic and job growth, and develop the potential of every American student.

 
AMERICA'S LANGUAGES CAUCUS:
A NEW NATIONAL LANGUAGE POLICY FORUM IN CONGRESS

The Congressional Caucus: A Space for Common Ground.

From the Algonquian Indian language, the term Caucus means "to meet together.” Today, Members of Congress create and join caucuses to pursue common legislative objectives centered around a particular theme or idea.  Caucuses acts as a policy forum, allowing Members from any background or region of the US to exchange information and ideas with colleagues and engage in direct legislative advocacy.

 

America's Languages Caucus is Congress's New Language Policy Forum.

The America's Languages Caucus Co-Chairs, Representatives David Price (NC) and Don Young (AK), established the America’s Languages Caucus in November 2019 in order to develop a national strategy to raise awareness about the importance of world language learning and international education, particularly as it relates to our nation’s economic and national security.

 

As part of the national strategy, Members of the caucus will work to ensure adequate resources are directed towards the study of world language learning. Members also seek to improve access for students and educators who wish to participate in these fields of study, including world languages, Native American languages, and English for English learners.

A Legislative Agenda for The 21st Century 

The core of the Caucus’ mission comes from the five language policy recommendations outlined in the 2017 Congressionally-Commissioned Report on Language Learning: America’s Languages: Investing in Language Education for the 21st Century. This inclusive and representative report makes clear that the United States needs significantly more bilingual and biliterate citizens to help ensure national security, promote economic and job growth, and develop the potential of every American student.

Already, there are dozens of language-related bills in the 116th Congress that advance America's Languages mission. For more information on these bills, scroll down to "Legislative Agenda,"or visit our Newsroom.

Who Can Join the Caucus? 

Congressional Caucuses consist of Members of Congress. Constituents and outside organizations are encouraged to request that their representatives join the caucus. Representatives can join the group by contacting Nora Blalock in the office of Rep. David Price (nora.blalock@mail.house.gov). 

Click here to contact your member of Congress and ask them to join. Thanks to our partners at ACTFL for setting up this alert.

 
 
IN THE 116TH CONGRESS,
a legislative agenda for Our multilingual future
The World Languages Advancement and Readiness Act
H.R. 1094; S. 2307

Why It's Needed: America is more globally engaged in its intelligence, diplomatic, and economic activity than at any other point in our history. Our nation’s success in these endeavors depends on strong academic programs in world languages. Strategic resourcing in language, regional expertise, and cultural studies is critical to our nation’s economic competitiveness and national security. Multiple GAO reports have cited shortfalls of languages and culture skills in the U.S. military and intelligence community, finding that our nation’s language deficit could threaten our priorities and missions around the globe. Meanwhile, American business and their clientele are diversifying and globalizing their operations, requiring language skills to access global markets and serve a multilingual population.

What It Does: WLARA would create a grant program to establish, improve, or expand world language programs in Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) schools and in local education agencies (LEAs) that host a Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) program to bolster our national and economic security. Approximately half of school districts in the US contain a JROTC program.

The Defense Language Improvement Act
H.R. 3185

Why It's Needed: Today’s service members in uniform need to be equipped with the necessary tools to maintain positive relations and foresee potential situations at home and abroad. This bill expands the educational opportunities for service members who graduate from the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC), the premier foreign language institutions in the nation, by offering students a BA in world language study.

What It Does: On April 10, Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) introduced the bipartisan Defense Language Improvement (DLI) Act (H.R.3185) which would authorize 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.

Expanding DLIFLC accreditation authority provides advanced learning opportunities, supports recruitment and reenlistment initiatives, and incentivizes higher level language learning to better support defense, intelligence, and law enforcement requirements.

The Esther Martinez Native American Languages Program Reauthorization Act
H.R. 912; S. 256

Why It's Needed: 

Native languages are endangered: Experts estimate that all of the approximately 148 Native languages that are still spoken are at risk of extinction within the next 50 to 100 years. The loss of these languages would deal a significant blow to our shared American and global heritage, but tribal communities are fighting to reverse this devastating trend. Congress can support these efforts by providing access to resources through programs like the Esther Martinez grant programs. 

 

Native languages encourage community resilience: Native language programs reaffirm that Indigenous languages are valuable and valid tools for engaging with the world. This reaffirmation increases the self-esteem and self-efficacy of Native community members while also reducing the negative impact of the stereotype threats and toxic stress that many face in academic and professional environments. In addition, language programs bring together tribal members from multiple generations that allow participants to form bonds with their tribal community and cultural mentors. When at-risk youth have at least one role-model, research has shown that they are more likely to stay out of trouble and become productive members of their communities.

What It Does: It would reauthorize through FY2024 both Esther Martinez grant programs administered by the Administration for Native Americans at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) – the Native American Languages Preservation and Maintenance (P&M) grant program and the Esther Martinez Initiative (EMI) grant program. Additionally:

  • Decreases the required minimum number of enrollees in Native American language nests funded by the grant program from 10 to 5 enrollees, and in the Native American language survival schools from 15 to 10 enrollees.

  • Increases the maximum possible duration of all Esther Martinez grants from three years to five.

  • Funds activities like Native language immersion programs, training language teachers, creating teaching materials, and related activities.

Reaching English Learners Act
H.R. 912; S. 256

Why It's Needed:

Consider this:

  • 1 in 10 public school students across the United States is learning to speak English

  • 32 states report a shortage of teachers for English Learners (ELs)

  • 65 percent of ELs graduate high school, compared to the national graduation rate of 83 percent English Learners (ELs)

 

There are nearly 5 million EL students across the country – one in ten public school students – most of whom are U.S. citizens. While Spanish is the primary language for most EL students, other languages are also prevalent, including Chinese, Vietnamese, and Arabic

 

EL and Bilingual Teacher Shortage. Teaching ELs requires a specific skillset and unique teaching strategies, including bilingual instruction, but the Department of Education reports that 32 states have a shortage of teachers for EL students making them unable to meet the students’ needs. The difficulties in instructing this growing population are reflected in a shocking academic achievement gap: on the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress, 70 percent of eighth grade EL students scored “below basic” on reading proficiency, compared to 20 percent of non-ELs, while 69 percent of ELs scored “below basic” in math proficiency, compared to 24 percent of non-ELs. Moreover, the National Center for Education Statistics reports that 65 percent of EL students graduate high school in four years, compared to the national four-year graduation rate of 83 percent.

What It Does: The Reaching English Learners Act would address this crisis by creating a grant program under Title II Part B of the Higher Education Act to fund the development of teacher preparation programs that train future teachers to instruct ELs. Specifically, institutions of higher education would be required to partner with local educational agencies to build or strengthen teaching programs that provide teacher candidates with skills related to:

  • Helping ELs in prekindergarten, elementary, and secondary school programs achieve at high academic levels and 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

The bill would require programs to offer work-based learning opportunities and provide the necessary coursework for teacher candidates to qualify for an EL teaching certification. Grant recipients would be required to report on the effectiveness of the EL teaching program to the Department of Education.

Supporting Providers of English Language Learning (SPELL) Act
H.R. 4389

Why It's Needed:

English Learner Teacher Crisis Approximately 5 million students, or 10 percent of all public-school students, are English learners (ELs) whose native language is one other than English. Teaching these students requires a specific skillset and unique teaching strategies, including bilingual instruction. However, the Department of Education reports that 32 states have a shortage of teachers for EL students, including English as a Second Language and Bilingual/Dual-language teachers, making them unable to meet students’ needs and resulting in a discouraging academic achievement gap for this growing population. 

According to the Economic Policy Institute, “A shortage of teachers harms students, teachers, and the public education system as a whole... the fact that the shortage is distributed so unevenly among students of different socioeconomic backgrounds challenges the U.S. education system’s goal of providing a sound education equitably to all children.” The shortage is even worse when teacher certifications are taken into account, with many states turning to uncertified teachers to fill the gaps, and high-poverty and high-minority settings bearing the brunt of the shortage.

Teacher Loan Forgiveness Works. The cost of high-quality teacher preparation programs can be an obstacle to entering the teaching profession, but research shows an association between teachers’ preparation level and their teaching effectiveness and retention. Fortunately, there is a solution. According to the Learning Policy Institute, “Research has found that effective service scholarship and loan forgiveness programs leverage greater recruitment into professional fields and locations where individuals are needed and support retention."

A shortage of teachers harms students, teachers, and the public education system as a whole.

Economic Policy Institute

What It Does:  Currently, if a highly-qualified teacher has been employed for five consecutive school years in a high-need elementary or secondary school, he or she is eligible for up to $5,000 of student loan forgiveness. However, a math, science, or special education teacher who meets these requirements is eligible for up to $17,500 of student loan forgiveness. Historically, math, science, and special education teachers have been in highest demand, so this additional incentive makes sense. 

Today, EL teachers join them at the top of the teacher shortage subject list. To address this trend, the bill would add English language teachers to this category, making them eligible for up to $17,500 in student loan forgiveness as well. By adding this incentive and assisting highly-qualified EL teachers in repaying their student loans, we can tackle the EL teacher shortage and ensure our nation’s ELs have the opportunity to succeed.

Biliteracy Education Seal and Teaching (BEST) Act

H.R. 3119

Why It's Needed:

  • Bilingualism is US resource: a language other than English is predominantly spoken in +20% of households (+65 million).

  • Studies show that oral proficiency and literacy in a student’s first language can facilitate English literacy development and vice versa.

  • 36 states and the District of Columbia have established a state Seal program; and ALL 50 states are working on developing their Seal programs. 

 

Each year, tens of thousands of high school students apply for and are awarded Seals of Biliteracy for being proficient in English and at least one other language. The Seal of Biliteracy is a prestigious academic recognition program officially established in 36 states, with the remainder of the Union working on establishing programs. However, many students do not have access to this opportunity due to the challenge of awareness, coordination and ultimately, implementation of the programs. 

What It Does: The Biliteracy Education Seal and Teaching Act establishes a federal grant program to help states establish a Biliteracy Seal program that encourages and recognizes high school students who achieve proficiency in English and a second language, and that better enables these young people to compete in the global workforce. 

This bill directs the Department of Education to award renewable two-year grants to states to establish or improve Seal of Biliteracy programs to recognize student proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing in both English and a second language. Students who gain proficiency in a second language outside of school may participate in such programs. State may not charge students a program application fee. State must provide to participating students who demonstrate such proficiency:

  1. Documentation of that proficiency on their official academic transcripts, and

  2. A permanent seal of other marker on their secondary school diplomas.

Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Act

S. 1198; H.R. 4555

Less than 10% of enrolled US post-secondary students study abroad.

Why It's Needed:

In today’s global society, an undergraduate education that includes a meaningful study abroad experience is more important than ever. Study abroad provides students the opportunity to engage with other cultures, enhance foreign language skills, and expand international knowledge. 

Unfortunately, only 10% of all enrolled post-secondary students in the United States study abroad. In addition, minority students, first generation college students, and community college students are underrepresented in study abroad participation. 

In 2004, Congress authorized the Commission on the Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Fellowship Program to provide recommendations to Congress and the President on expanding opportunities for United States undergraduate students to study abroad, with a special emphasis on study abroad in developing countries. This bill seeks to implement those recommendations. 

What It Does:  The Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Program Act establishes a competitive grant program, run by the Department of Education, for institutions of higher education to encourage the sustainable expansion of study abroad opportunities for undergraduate students in the United States. 

Named after the late Illinois Senator, Paul Simon, who encouraged Congress to come together to prepare the next generation of Americans with the global knowledge and skills needed for success in an increasingly interconnected world, higher education institutions would apply for competitive grants, individually or in consortium, to help them institute highly-effective programs that would move the country toward the achievement of these objectives. The institutional grants would create a legacy of study abroad at the winning institutions by removing the institutional, cultural, and curricular barriers that keep students from studying abroad.

The goals of the program are to: 

  • Increase the overall number of undergraduate students studying abroad annually to ONE MILLION within TEN YEARS;

  • Increase the number of nontraditional and minority students studying abroad so that the demographics of study abroad participation reflect the demographics of the undergraduate population; and 

  • Increase the number of students who study abroad in nontraditional destinations, with an emphasis on study abroad in developing countries.