FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WASHINGTON, D.C., September 24, 2021 -- On Wednesday afternoon, the Joint National Committee for Languages (JNCL), the national coalition providing representation on Capitol Hill for language educators and professionals, hosted a congressional briefing addressing the national language educator shortage and the most pressing challenges facing the recruitment and retention of World Language, Bilingual, and Dual Immersion educators. In any given academic year over the past 20 years, upwards of 58% of U.S. states and territories have reported shortages in qualified teachers for World Languages and Bilingual Education. By 2025, there is projected to be a hiring gap of 100,000 teachers annually, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has especially exacerbated the acceleration of this increasing hiring gap for language educators.
“Several common themes emerged from this conversation: the need for sustainable language education models; the willingness to break down barriers; and the importance of challenging negative attitudes towards the diverse languages and cultures in the United States,” said panel moderator Amanda Seewald, President, JNCL-NCLIS. “Increased financial support will allow all schools to grow programs that yield multilingual citizens who can contribute to the greater good and economic success of our society. We know our global economy needs this.”
The briefing featured remarks from Representative David Price (D-NC) and Representative Don Young (R-AK), co-chairs of the America’s Languages Caucus.
"It was a pleasure to join the Joint National Committee for Languages and represent the America's Language Caucus at the briefing. In today’s global environment, we know that world language skills and cultural competency are necessary," said Representative David Price (D-NC). "We've found that to be even more true during the global pandemic, where clear and precise communication between and among nations has been critical. This important briefing emphasized the need for robust investment in world language learning in our schools, which starts with supporting our language educators."
Representative Don Young (R-AK) affirmed the importance of language education, “I believe very strongly as a former teacher, language is a key to getting along with people, understanding people, understanding their culture, understanding the future.”
The panel discussion highlighted the severe language educator shortages across the nation and provided examples of sustainable models to support the language educator pipeline.
“Language is at the heart of the human experience. Since the 1950s, US Presidents and others have called attention to the shortage of language teachers,” said Pete Swanson, Assistant Spanish Professor, United States Air Force Academy. “It's time to stop ringing the bell and alerting people to the problem at hand. We need active support to build and sustain the profession because it's not only a matter of national security, it also enhances the human condition where successful interaction with a wide range of individuals representing cultures and societies is critical.”
“To address the crippling bilingual teachers shortage, funding is needed to assist districts to create or expand high school bilingual education academies as part of their career and technical education programs to uplift teaching in biliteracy programs as a viable career,” said Martha Hernandez, Executive Director of Californians Together. “We have an incredible national resource in the students who qualify for a State Seal of Biliteracy. Creating bilingual teacher pathways for these students would go far in addressing the shortage”
One successful model to address the language educator shortage has been developed by Portland Public Schools. The Portland Dual Language Teacher Residency Program was designed to empower bilingual community members by breaking down barriers to complete teacher certification. Over 100 teachers have successfully completed certification through this model and are currently teaching in the Portland Public Schools. “Dual Language Immersion education is a game changer in terms of closing the opportunity gap for our Emergent Bilingual children while simultaneously building a multilingual citizen prepared to collaborate and communicate in solving the many challenges of our world,” said Michael Bacon, Dual Language Director, Portland Public Schools. “We are in desperate need of highly bilingual and highly qualified K-12 educators to implement Dual Language Immersion programs to meet the needs of our children, communities and country.”
JNCL-NCLIS is committed to continuing conversations with legislators about strengthening and diversifying the language educator pipeline with the support and leadership of the America's Languages Caucus.
A recording of this briefing is available online.
Established in 1972, the Joint National Committee for Languages (JNCL) and the National Council for Languages and International Studies (NCLIS) unites a national network of leading organizations and businesses comprised of over 300,000 language professionals to advocate for equitable language learning opportunities. Our mission is to ensure that Americans have the opportunity to learn English and at least one other language.