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Advocacy News

HELP Chairman Tom Harkin Introduces the “Strengthening America’s Schools Act of 2013”

Every child in this country deserves access to a quality public education that gives them the support they need to reach their full potential. The Strengthening America’s Schools Act of 2013 provides a framework to get all children to graduate from high school with the knowledge and skills needed for success in college and/or a career. Here are some of the language-specific items that are detailed in the bill:

  • The bill again includes Senator Casey’s language from last Congress expanding the Well-Rounded Grant, specifically itemizing subject areas, including Foreign Language.
  • The bill does not include FLAP.
  • One of the allowable use of funds for State subgrants under Title III is “As appropriate, developing curricula appropriate for dual-language instructional environments.” However, the State may not reserve more than 10 percent of the agency’s allotment for this and other itemized purposes.
  • Native American children grants can be used for Native American language immersion programs.

View the press release, one-pager, summary, or the entire bill text.

Sec. Arne Duncan Meets with Noah Geisel, ACTFL’s Teacher of the Year

During the National Teacher Appreciation week, which took place May 6-10, 2013, US Department of Education’s Secretary, Arne Duncan recognized Mr. Noah Geisel as the National Language Teacher of the Year.

Geisel is a Spanish teacher at East High School in Denver, CO. He commented that his enthusiasm for teaching Spanish: “comes from my love of language and culture, and belief that language learning and understanding of cultures are essential to my students’ futures.”

View article on the official US Dept. of Education blog.

2012 Teacher of the Year, Yo Azama, Receives Honor from Congressman Farr

On March 26, 2013, Congressman Sam Farr presented Yo Azama, the 2012 ACTFL Teacher of the Year, with an award. The award recognizes Mr. Azama's leadership as the 2012 National Foreign Language Teach of the Year — California World Language Education Community.

Mr. Azama is a Japanese language teacher at North Salinas High School in Salinas, CA. Congressman Farr said, "I congratulate Mr. Azama on his much-deserved recognition as he continues to teach, lead, and inspire California's youth."


More than 3,000 National, State, and Local Organizations Urge Congress to Avoid Further Cuts to Nondefense Discretionary (NDD) Programs

In July 2012, 3,000 national, state and local organizations representing the breadth of support for “nondefense discretionary” programs signed a letter urging Congress to avoid sequestration through a balanced approach to deficit reduction that did not include further cuts to NDD programs.

With the enactment of the American Taxpayer Relief Act, sequestration was delayed for two months until March 1. But the threat to these important programs remains very, very real.

Leaders of “NDD United” have decided to update the NDD 3000 letter to reflect recent events and re-open for additional signatures! The letter will be sent up to the Hill mid-February in advance of the sequester deadline.

House Passes Bill to Raise Debt Ceiling

The House of Representatives passed a bill to temporarily extend the debt limit earlier today. The bill requires that both the Senate and House pass a budget – and if they do not, pay for Members of Congress will be withheld. The President has indicated that he will not oppose the bill; Senator Reid stated this morning that the Senate will pass the bill unchanged; and Budget Chair Patty Murray stated that the Senate will write a budget. (The Senate has not considered a budget for four years.)

The bill appears to be headed toward enactment, meaning that the remaining elements of the fiscal cliff will hit deadlines in the following order:

  1. Sequestration will go into effect on March 1st;
  2. Current annual funding for the government (a FY13 CR) expires at the end of March; and
  3. The debt limit would be extended until May 19th.

Language Profession Pens Letter to President

ACTFL led a coalition of language education associations which recently sent a letter to President Obama asking him to support languages in his 2014 budget request, which he is currently preparing. If Obama is re-elected, this will become the budget blueprint he submits to Congress in early 2013. No matter what the outcome of the fall election, it’s important to engage the administration to show Congress that these vital concerns have the support of the executive branch. Fifty-four national, regional, and state organizations signed on to the letter, including the Joint National Committee for Languages & National Council for Languages and International Studies (JNCL-NCLIS) and the Modern Language Association (MLA). Read the letter.

ACTFL Representatives, Including Teacher of the Year, Visit Capitol Hill

At the Joint National Committee for Languages–National Council for Languages and International Studies (JNCL-NCLIS) Annual Legislative Day and Delegate Assembly in May, language educators and leaders from throughout the United States gathered in Washington, DC, to meet with legislators and their staff members and advocate for language education policy.

Among those who visited Capitol Hill were 2012 ACTFL National Language Teacher of the Year Yo Azama, ACTFL President Dave McAlpine, members of the ACTFL Board of Directors, and ACTFL Executive Director Marty Abbott. Azama visited the offices of California Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinsten, as well as Representative Sam Farr, along with California Language Teachers Association Executive Director Lorraine D’Ambruoso and ACTFL Board Member Duarte Silva. While unable to meet with the legislators in person, they were able to speak at length with staff members to discuss the importance of language education.

Azama said that these conversations were quite substantive and informative, particularly the excellent conversation with the staffer for Rep. Farr. “They were really knowledgeable and listened to what we had to say,” he noted. Azama also took the opportunity to extend an invitation for the legislators to visit his Japanese classroom in Salinas, CA.

The group also visited the Department of Education where they were welcomed by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Azama said that meeting with Duncan was a highlight and that he was very approachable and friendly. “He told me many times during our conversation to keep pushing the issue of language education,” said Azama. “He definitely seemed interested in keeping the dialogue going.”

After welcoming the ACTFL delegation, Duncan turned to Twitter to share his impression of the visit. From @arneduncan, he tweeted: “Yo Azama, the Nat’l Language Teacher of the Yr, stopped by today. Reminder that to compete in global economy, students need add’l languages.” Read more about the visit.