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JNCL-NCLIS Applauds Introduction of Revised Biliteracy Education and Seal Teaching (BEST) Act

Updated: Jan 18




JNCL-NCLIS Applauds Introduction of Revised Biliteracy Education and Seal Teaching (BEST) Act


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


WASHINGTON, D.C., January 17, 2024 - Today, Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-CA) introduced a revised version of the Biliteracy Education and Seal Teaching (BEST) Act (H.R. 7007, S. 3595). Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. Senate. The revised language included in this bill would establish, within the U.S. Department of Education, a program to support state and local implementation of Seal of Biliteracy programs. This new BEST Act would also require state grantees to provide subgrants to school districts so that they can launch, expand and scale local Seal of Biliteracy programs. This legislation also includes new language that requires states to ensure: equitable access to Seal programs for students with disabilities; the inclusion of American Sign Language as well as Native American languages in state Seal of Biliteracy programs; and outreach about Seal programs to elementary school and middle grade students, including heritage language learners and English learners.  

   

Seal of Biliteracy programs have already been adopted in 49 states and the D.C. and thousands of students have earned seals on their diplomas or transcripts denoting their proficiency in one world language in addition to English. To support this progress, JNCL-NCLIS has worked closely with Representative Brownley and Senator Schatz to ensure the BEST Act provides the resources needed to implement and expand these programs and provide equitable opportunities for all students to earn their seals.


“The revised BEST Act is a statement by its sponsors, Congresswoman Julia Brownley and Senator Brian Schatz, that multilingualism is an asset to be recognized for students and should be available equitably to all learners, especially English language learners and heritage learners,” said Amanda Seewald, Executive Director of the Joint National Committee for Languages and the National Council for Languages and International Studies (JNCL-NCLIS). “This bill’s emphasis on implementing Seal of Biliteracy programs broadly in school districts across the nation will help students acquire the skills they need for college, career, and life, and uplift the languages that are central to identity for so many. JNCL-NCLIS has been honored to work on this legislation with such dedicated legislators and look forward to its passage.”


“Being proficient in two or more languages can be a critical advantage in today’s globalized, competitive economy. By ensuring states establish and carry out a Seal of Biliteracy program, we can properly equip our students with language proficiency while also better safeguarding our future national security,” said Congresswoman Brownley. “I have seen first-hand the benefits of this program across the State of California and more specifically in my district, where many students are fluent in more than one language and bilingualism is very prominent. It is important for our schools to prepare our students with the 21st Century skills, like multilingualism, that will benefit them tremendously in their future academic and professional careers.”


“In today’s interconnected world, learning a second language not only helps students perform better in school, but also improves problem-solving skills and chances at professional success,” said Senator Schatz. “In Hawaiʻi, students have the unique opportunity to earn a Seal of Biliteracy for fluency in the Hawaiian language. Our bill will improve and expand this important program nationwide so that every student can be recognized for learning a second language.”


The official press release from Representative Brownley’s office can be accessed here and the bill text can be viewed here.


JNCL-NCLIS and its members will continue to work closely with members in both the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate to support this legislation through passage and implementation. 




About JNCL-NCLIS:


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.




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