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Next Up for New K-12 Language Grant Program? Funding Question Looms in 2021.

WASHINGTON, DC — Now that Congress and the President have given the green light to the newest federal K-12 language grant program, 2020 holds a new challenge for the nascent initiative: funding. Approved in the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act, the program was not authorized to received funds in the FY20 defense budget. In order to receive funding, Congress must call out a specific dollar amount in the FY21 Defense Appropriations Act—a funding bill— to administer the program in its inaugural year and beyond later this year.

Advocates for language education are calling for $15m in FY21 to get the program off the ground. The program's authors, Congressmen David Price and Don Young, are circulating a Dear Colleague letter to garner support.

“The United States can no longer afford to neglect our deficiencies in foreign language and international education, which limit our economic and national security competitiveness,” said Congressman David Price (D-NC-04) in a statement.

“We should be doing all we can to ensure that America’s students are equipped to become leaders in business and civic life,” said Congressman Don Young (R-AK-At large). "Our bill helps America keep pace with other developed nations by providing the language education our students need to secure good jobs, achieve success in global marketplaces, and successfully navigate multilingual business environments. The legislation also helps build a pipeline for growing experts in languages that are critical to our national defense."

While the the White House's FY21 budget request calls for increased defense funding, the World Language Advancement and Readiness Grant Program is not currently included.

More about the program: The World Language Advancement and Readiness Grant Program allows for 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 host a unit of the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC), and/or 2) schools operated by the Department of Defense Education Activity. (Section 1751, p. 1659 - 1662, FY20 NDAA). It's current funding level stands at $0 for FY20.

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