July 8, 2013
Would Get Federal Boost in Proposed Legislation
Lesli A. Maxwel
States seeking to grant special recognition to their multilingual
high school graduates would get a big boost from the federal
government under new legislation introduced by a California
U.S. Rep. Julia Brownley, a Democrat, introduced the Biliteracy
Education Seal and Teaching (BEST) Act late last month, a measure
that would create grants in the U.S. Department of Education
to help states that want to establish "seal of biliteracy"
programs that support and recognize students who demonstrate
proficiency in English and at least one other language.
Brownley sponsored similar legislation in California, the first
state to offer a seal of biliteracy to its high school graduates.
New York followed suit last year. Illinois lawmakers approved
a seal of biliteracy bill late last month-that measure awaits
the governor's signature.
The federal grants-which Brownley's bill proposes to be $10
million annually from fiscal 2015 through fiscal 2019-would
be used to cover the administrative costs of setting up and
carrying out a seal of biliteracy program, as well as for public
Prospects for this measure moving forward-like almost anything
in Congress these days-are slim, especially with an appropriation
attached. A tightfisted Congress is not likely to jump on this.
Still, it's noteworthy that the biliteracy issue has reached
the national stage, even if only in the form of federal legislation
that may not get any traction.
A small advocacy group for English-learners, Californians Together,
is the main reason for the spread of the biliteracy seal idea.
The nonprofit group conceived of the biliteracy seal in its
home state and has been a strong advocate for other states to
adopt a special recognition of students who have attained a
high level of proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing
one or more languages in addition to English. The seal is intended
for all students, including English-language learners.
In 2012, California issued 10,000 seals to high school graduates.