Bills To Spur Language Study Are Lauded
Washington--Educators last week praised two Senate proposals to create new programs supporting precollegiate foreign-language instruction, citing teacher shortages and the importance of foreign languages in preparing students for an increasingly international business world.
The educators, most of them language specialists, testified at a hearing before the Senate education subcommittee on two related bills.
The largest program in S 1690, sponsored by Senator Christopher Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, would authorize $50 million in grants to postsecondary institutions to train precollegiate foreign-language teachers, with preference given to elementary-school trainees.
Another provision would allow states to use some of the federal student-aid funds they distribute under the state incentive-grant program to provide scholarships to prospective foreign-language teachers. Others would authorize $10 million in4grants for distance-learning programs that bring foreign-language instruction to small and rural schools, and another $10 million for grants to consortia to develop and operate programs to improve instruction in "critical languages" at the precollegiate level.
"Critical languages" are those, such as Japanese and Arabic, in which demand for fluent speakers by government and business outstrips supply.
The measure would require consortia to include a college or university, a secondary school with experience in teaching foreign languages, and a secondary school in which at least 25 percent of the students are eligible for the Chapter 1 compensatory-education program.
The second bill, S 1540, concerns only such consortia, and authorizes an annual spending ceiling of $15 million.
The bill, sponsored by Senator James M. Jeffords, Republican of Vermont, would require a consortium to include entities in at least two states. The members would have to number at least one nonprofit corporation whose principal activities include cultural-exchange and "language and area studies programs," one private or public school, and one higher-education institution.
The Education Department currently does not target funds for precollegiate foreign-language instruction.
Until 1988, the Education for Economic Security Act provided grants for teacher training in that area, but last year's omnibus reauthorization bill renamed the program and limited it to the training of mathematics and science teachers.
A new foreign-language program authorizing grants for "innovative" programs was included in the law, but was not funded in 1989 and is not included in the pending 1990 budget.--j.m.