The sun is shining on language education in the US, and 2024 could turn out to be a pivotal year for the creation of a multilingual education system—as long as we make the most of this unprecedented opportunity to reinforce our educational infrastructure by recruiting and training the next generation of motivated, diverse educators and building environments capable of adapting to developments in educational technology. With elections this year, we can’t be sure what’s in store come 2025, so now is the time to sow.
For the first time, we have a secretary of education who is not only bilingual and an English learner himself but is also committed to building a multilingual country. These are his actual words (Feb. 28, 2023): “Let’s build a new era of multilingualism in America—an era where our young people can lead thriving lives and careers with their knowledge of languages from Mandarin to French, Spanish to Japanese. And let’s foster a new multilingual generation of Americans—strengthened in their identities, supported in their education, prepared to lead in our country and around the world. To all of our students in America: ¡Ya es tiempo de aprender otro idioma!”
This may be Cardona’s last year in office, so he needs our help to achieve this goal!
By the end of last September, states and school districts reported that they had spent $122 billion—64.3% of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds—so that leaves school districts with about $67.6 billion to obligate before the September 2024 deadline for allocating the entire $189 billion allotted in three rounds of congressional appropriations.
Spending levels between states have been uneven, with 18 states having spent less than three-fifths of their allocations and three states still remaining below 50% as of October 2023. States have until January 2025 to liquidate their funds, and those with approved extensions have until March 2026.
Last month, the US Department of Education finally returned control of Title III spending ($890 million for FY2023) to the Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA; see p. 9), which, under the direction of Montserrat Garibay and her deputy, Beatriz Ceja-Williams, is well placed to understand that the recruitment and retention of gifted, motivated, and committed teachers must be the cornerstone on which to establish an educational system in which multilingualism is rewarded and celebrated.
The funding is there to make to make teaching the proud experience it deserves to be, to reward linguistic diversity, and to recognize its benefits. Now, we have to make sure that it is invested wisely in teachers, their salaries and conditions, their recruitment and professional development, and the modernization of their tools and methodologies so that our public education system becomes an object of pride for all political parties, all policymakers, and even all presidents.