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January 24th, 2023
Reps. Grijalva & Espaillat Introduce SPELL Act to Address Dramatic Shortage of Teachers of English Learners

The Supporting Providers of English Language Learning (SPELL) Act Increases Loan Forgiveness for Teachers of English Learners (ELs) to Address National Multi-lingual Teacher Shortage.

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Representatives Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-07) and Adriano Espaillat (NY-13)  reintroduced the Supporting Providers of English Language Learning (SPELL) Act to address the national multi-lingual teacher shortage by increasing loan forgiveness for teachers of English learners (ELs).

About 5 million students, or 10 percent of all public-school students, are ELs, and educating these students requires unique teaching strategies. However, the Department of Education has reported that 32 states have a shortage of teachers for EL students, making them unable to meet students’ needs and resulting in a discouraging academic achievement gap for this growing population. The cost of teacher preparation programs can be an obstacle for many to enter the profession, but data shows an association between teachers’ preparation level and their teaching effectiveness and retention. Research demonstrates that loan forgiveness programs are successful at encouraging teachers to take positions in fields and at locations where they are most needed, and forgiveness programs also help to support retention.

“As a former English learner student, I know firsthand the critical role teachers of ELs play in the development of students. Without them, I would not be where I am today,” said Rep. Grijalva. “In Arizona, we face an immense teacher shortage that has hindered the effectiveness of dual language programs and the development of students learning the English language. With nearly 10 percent or 75,000 students as English language learners in Arizona, we need to pass the SPELL Act to incentivize the creation of additional EL teaching jobs, improve the quality of education for ELs, and increase resources for EL teachers in our state and nationwide.”

“When we first began talking about the need to support English Learners (ELs) across the country, many did not see or understand the urgency behind our call to action. Today, there is an increased momentum and awareness about the need to support high-quality education for ELs and dedicated teachers at all stages of educating these students. While teacher shortages are not unique, the needs of ELs are,” said Congressman Adriano Espaillat. “I am proud to join my colleague, Congressman Grijalva, once again 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. By adding this incentive and assisting EL teachers in repaying their student loans, we can address the teacher shortage and ensure our nation’s ELs have the opportunity to succeed.”

Under current law, if a highly-qualified teacher is employed for five years in a high-need elementary or secondary school, they are eligible for up to $5,000 in student loan forgiveness. Historically, math, science, and special education teachers have been in highest demand, so to achieve higher recruitment and retention rates, teachers in these subject areas are eligible for an increased benefit of $17,500 in loan forgiveness. Today, EL teachers join them among most in-demand subjects, and to address this latest trend, the SPELL Act would add teachers of English learners to this category, making them eligible for up to $17,500 in student loan forgiveness as well. 

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