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September 18th, 2019
Grijalva, Langevin, Espaillat, Introduce SPELL Act to Address Dramatic Shortage of Teachers of English Learners

WASHINGTON— Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Jim Langevin (D-RI),  and Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) introduced the Supporting Providers of English Language Learning (SPELL) Act. The legislation aims to address the English learner (EL) teacher shortage by making highly-qualified EL teachers eligible for up to $17,500 in student loan forgiveness.

“As the number of English Learners increases in our public schools, it’s critical to have highly-trained teachers to serve their needs,” said Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva. “The SPELL Act will remedy the current EL teacher shortage and help recruit and retain exceptional teachers to serve our students. As a former school board member, I’m proud to support legislation that gives more students the learning opportunities they need to thrive in our public schools.”

The National Center for Education Statistics reports that only 65 percent of EL students graduate high school in four years, compared to the national four-year graduation rate of 83 percent. The academic achievement gap between ELs and non-ELs will only worsen if the EL teacher shortage is not addressed. Approximately 5 million students, or 10 percent of all public-school students, are ELs, and the Department of Education reports that 32 states have a shortage of teachers appropriately qualified to educate them.

“In Rhode Island, we have a rapidly growing English learning student population, but we lack qualified teachers needed to educate these students,” said Congressman Langevin, who also introduced the Reaching English Learners Act earlier this year. “Unfortunately, Rhode Island’s English learner teacher shortage is not unique, as many other states are struggling to reach this important population. It is imperative that we address this challenge so that every child has access to a high-quality education. By expanding student loan forgiveness for teachers of English learners, we can recruit and retain more skilled educators to ensure English learners don’t fall further behind their peers.”

“English Learners (ELs) across the country deserve to have the access to high-quality and dedicated teachers at all stages of their education. While teacher shortages are not unique, the needs of ELs are,” said Congressman Adriano Espaillat. “I am proud to join my colleagues, Congressmen Langevin and Grijalva, to introduce the Supporting Providers of English Language Learning (SPELL) Act to allow EL teachers up to $17,500 in student loan forgiveness so they may better continue to provide high-quality education to the next generation of American students.”

Currently, if a highly-qualified teacher has been employed for five consecutive years in a high-need school, they are eligible for up to $5,000 of student loan forgiveness. Historically, math, science, and special education teachers have been in high demand, so, to achieve higher recruitment and retention rates, teachers who go into these subjects are eligible for an increased benefit of $17,500 of student loan forgiveness. To combat the growing EL teacher shortage, theSPELL Act adds EL teachers to this high demand category, making them eligible for additional debt relief.

“Introducing such an important piece of legislation, at a time when so many English language teachers are overwhelmed by student loan payments, is very meaningful to our members,” said Christopher Powers, Executive Director of TESOL International Association. “TESOL International Association looks forward to working with Congress to support and advance this valuable bill.”

“America needs more language teachers, as noted by the Congressionally-requested report of the Commission on Language Learning of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences,” said Bill Rivers, Executive Director of the Joint National Committee for Language – National Council on Language and International Studies. “The SPELL Act will help our nation address a critical shortage of language teachers.” 

Text of the Supporting Providers of English Language Learning (SPELL) Act.

The SPELL Act is supported by: Joint National Council for Languages-National Council for Languages and International Studies, TESOL International Association, Association of Latino Administrators & Superintendents, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, International Association for Language Learning Technology, National Network for Early Language Learning, Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, Southern Conference on Language Teaching, American Association of Teachers of French, American Council for International Education, American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, Avant Assessment, Computer-Assisted Language Instruction Consortium, Arizona Language Association, California Association for Bilingual Education, Connecticut Council of Language Teachers, Dual Language Educators of New Mexico, Hawaii Association of Language Teachers, Massachusetts Foreign Language Association, Michigan World Language Association, New York State Association of Foreign Language Teachers, Pennsylvania State Modern Language Association, Rhode Island Teachers of English Language Learners,Rhode Island Foreign Language Association, Utah Foreign Language Association, West Virginia Foreign Language Teachers Association, Wisconsin Association for Language Teachers


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