Last month, management of Title III—the state grants for improving instruction of English learners, amounting to $890 million (FY2023)—returned to the US Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA), having been under the remit of the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) for the last 15 years. The move will likely increase attention on, and maybe even funding for, multilingual learners.
Back in February, education secretary Miguel Cardona notified Congress of his intention to move functions involving the administration of state-administered grants under Title III of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) from OESE to OELA, where they were originally located. Title III funding is designed to improve the education of English learners, immigrant children, and youth through supplemental services that improve the English language proficiency and academic achievement of ELs.
Montserrat Garibay, assistant deputy secretary and the director of OELA, issued a statement explaining the significance of the move: “This change is going to allow the department to focus the work that supports English learners in one principal office, while the critical collaboration between the Title III State Formula Program and Title I team in OESE will continue across offices to support states and school districts with high-quality assessments and other coordination starting today.”
Garibay went on to say that the commitment to multilingualism is present at all levels of the department and that the change would enable them to:
- Elevate the critical role of Title III in producing high-quality language instruction to support English learners, highlight and assist grantees more intently in the development of English language proficiency, and help support improvement in academic achievement among ELs.
- Centralize the core work of supporting and strengthening educational opportunities for ELs within OELA at the department.
- Increase institutional capacity to lead and implement the department’s multilingual strategy on a national stage.
Logistically, the process for states and districts to receive Title III funding will not change, but OELA is hoping to work more directly with educators and researchers, and there is the possibility that restrictions on spending may be loosened.
Garibay closed her statement full of optimism: “Moving forward, OELA welcomes Title III with open arms to build the foundation of this transformation. OELA will be raising the bar by leading the way in creating pathways for global engagement through multilingualism for ALL students. The elevation of the work along with the alignment and importance of policies and programs supporting ELs across the department will ensure that every English learner can truly embrace their superpower to reach their full potential.”
Ana M. Santos, MA, CCC-B/SLP, a bilingual speech–language pathologist, was enthusiastic about the move on LinkedIn: “OELA overseeing these funds will ensure research is disseminated widely and pedagogy strategies will shift to best practice for our English language learners. The training and professional development can now be focused on cultural responsiveness and competence for our linguistically diverse students, making English learning as it should have been all these years! I’m looking forward to more engagement and direct communication with the true change makers!”
Last summer, a coalition of more than 160 organizations called on Congress to double Title III funding to $2 billion. OELA may make a stronger case for more Title III dollars now that it oversees the program.