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Schatz, Brownley Introduce Legislation To Promote Biliteracy In High Schools

Bill Would Improve, Expand Seal of Biliteracy Programs Offered in Hawai‘i, Other States

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and U.S. Representative Julia Brownley (D-Calif.) introduced the Biliteracy Education Seal and Teaching (BEST) Act, legislation that would provide federal grants to states to create Seal of Biliteracy programs that encourage and recognize high school students who achieve proficiency in at least two languages. The Senate bill is co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-N.M.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.).

“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 Hawai?i, 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.”

Biliteracy has been proven to improve academic achievement and graduation rates, as well as future employability and earning potential. In addition to Hawai‘i, Utah, Arizona, Washington, and New Mexico offer students the opportunity to earn a Seal of Biliteracy for dual-proficiency a wide range of languages. The BEST Act would expand these programs to recognition for proficiency in Native American languages. Eligible high school seniors receive a Seal on their transcripts upon graduating to indicate proficiency in two or more languages, enabling colleges and prospective employers to easily identify the valuable expertise bilingual students bring to both academia and the workplace.

The bill is supported by the Joint National Committee for Languages and the National Council for Languages and International Studies (JNCL-NCLIS), National Education Association, California Language Teachers' Association, Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents, Californians Together, and the National Association for Bilingual Education.

“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.”

The full text of the bill is available here.