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World Language Advancement and Readiness Act (WLARA) Included in House Defense Reauthorization Bill

Updated: Jul 18, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. − In a big win for the language enterprise this past Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted unanimously to include the World Language Advancement and Readiness Act (WLARA) as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY2020.

WLARA seeks to expand language learning at the elementary and secondary levels. Passage of WLARA has been a multi-year initiative for JNCL-NCLIS and Wednesday marked the bill's latest advancement through Congress.

congress ndaa
The differences between the House and Senate NDAA bills are expected to be reconciled in conference committee after August recess.

A stalwart language advocate and 2017 recipient of the Rush Holt Award for Language Service to the Nation, Representative David Price introduced amendment #325 as a part of an en bloc package (EB 13). You can view the amendment on page 34 (PDF). 

“The United States is lagging behind other nations in language proficiency, which threatens our ability to succeed in global military and diplomatic missions,” said Congressman David Price (D-NC) in a release. “I introduced this bipartisan amendment to prepare elementary and secondary school students for future service by focusing a majority of the grant funding on languages considered critical by the Department of Defense. I thank my colleagues for helping pass this important amendment.”

Representative Don Young (R-AK) was also an early supporter and original sponsor of WLARA in the House.

“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. “The World Language Advancement and Readiness Act 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 multi-lingual business environments. The legislation also helps build a pipeline for growing experts in languages that are critical to our national defense. I am grateful to Congressman Price for joining me in this important initiative to help us boost our national defense and global competitiveness.”

The world languages amendment 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.

The bipartisan amendment was cosponsored by Representatives Don Young (R-AK), Gil Cisneros (D-CA), Rick Larsen (D-WA), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Jim Langevin (D-RI), and Seth Moulton (D-MA).

"None of this would have been possible without the connections our advocates have made over the past 3-4 years with members of Congress and staffers," said Dr. Bill Rivers, Executive Director of JNCL-NCLIS. "I hope our advocates understand that this is the direct result of their impact. They deserve this victory."

On Friday, the House passed the multi-billion dollar defense authorization bill. For its part, Senate passed its own version of the NDAA in late June without the world languages amendment included. The next step is for select members of the two chambers to meet in a "conference committee" to iron out differences between the two versions of the bill.

JNCL-NCLIS expects both chambers of Congress to pass an identical reauthorization bill before the long August recess. During this time, it is important to stay tuned to for advocacy updates.

Update: a previous version speculated that the NDAA conference committee would reconcile differences before the August recess. We now believe that process will not be completed until after the recess.

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