Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) today introduced the Reaching English Learners Act to strengthen public education for English language learners (ELs) in the United States and to address the shortage of teachers qualified to teach these students. Cortez Masto’s bipartisan bill, which is cosponsored by Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), would create a grant program to fund partnerships between institutions of higher education and high-need school districts to create teacher-training programs that will better prepare the next generation of EL educators. Senator Cortez Masto crafted the Reaching English Learners Act after hearing directly from a Washoe County School District teacher about the challenges facing educators who work with EL students.
There are nearly 5 million EL students across the country – one in ten public school students. While Spanish is the primary language for most EL students, other languages are also prevalent, including Chinese, Vietnamese, and Arabic. The Department of Education reports that 32 states have a shortage of teachers for EL students. As a result, thousands of schools across the country are unable to meet the needs of the growing population of these students.
“Language should not be a roadblock to accessing a strong public education in America. As we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, we must make sure we are reaching every student, and that means educators who can address their specific language learning needs,” said Cortez Masto. “I’ve introduced this bipartisan bill to address the critical English language teacher shortage in Nevada and help make sure that English learners have everything they need to learn on an equal footing with their peers.”
“With a state as diverse as Texas, it’s absolutely critical that our educators are equipped to meet the needs of all Texans, but particularly those who face the extra challenge of learning English in addition to their studies,” said Sen. Cornyn. “This legislation will ensure that teachers have the tools and expertise to empower English learners with the skills they need to succeed alongside their peers, and I’m proud to join Sen. Cortez Masto in introducing this crucial bill.”
“As the number of English learners continues to grow, so, too, must our commitment to delivering a high-quality education that sets them up for success. That vision is at the heart of The Reaching English Learners Act,” said Amalia Chamorro, Director of Education Policy for UnidosUS. “This is an important bill that makes critical investments in preparation programs to recruit and retain educators qualified to work with our nation’s ELs and are fully prepared to meet their specific needs.”
Cortez Masto’s Reaching English Learners Act would create a grant program for colleges and universities to support the development of teacher preparation programs that train future teachers to instruct EL students. To secure a grant, higher education institutions would be required to partner with local education agencies to build or strengthen teaching programs that provide qualified teacher candidates with skills related to:
- Helping ELs in early childhood education and elementary and secondary school programs achieve at high academic levels and attain English proficiency;
- Recognizing and addressing the social and emotional needs of ELs;
- Appropriately identifying and instructing ELs with disabilities; and
- Promoting parental, family, and community engagement in EL educational programs.
The Reaching English Learners Act has been endorsed by UnidosUS, American Federation of Teachers, Association of Language Companies, Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents, Joint National Committee for Languages, National Association for Bilingual Education, Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, and the TESOL International Association.