[lg policy] US Foreign-Language Programs Stung by Budget Cuts

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at GMAIL.COM
Thu Jun 9 15:02:04 UTC 2011

Foreign-Language Programs Stung by Budget Cuts

Advocates voice concern over loss of key funding to train K-12 educators
By Mary Ann Zehr

The federal government has identified a huge demand for proficient
speakers of foreign languages, but Congress substantially reduced
funds to support the teaching of foreign languages to K-12 and college
students in the budget deal struck for fiscal 2011.

Foreign-language advocates say they are discouraged that while
President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan
have stressed in speeches the importance of bilingualism, a pot of
money that underwrites the cost of 14 higher education programs
focused on foreign languages and international education—some of which
provide crucial support to K-12 educators—will be cut by 40 percent in
the current fiscal year.

They’re relieved, though, that the $27 million Foreign Language
Assistance Program authorized by the Elementary and Secondary
Education Act, which gives grants directly for K-12 programs that
teach languages deemed critical to U.S. security and economic needs,
emerged from the budget talks unscathed.

The 14 small programs in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008
that support language and international education, authorized by the
Title VI and Fulbright-Hays sections of the law, were funded at $126
million in fiscal 2010. They weren’t mentioned in the 2011 budget
legislation approved by Congress in April, but a chart of the cuts in
the 2011 budget posted on the website of the House Appropriations
Committee said that those programs could receive a cut of $50 million,
or 40 percent of their budgets. The final budget released last month
showed the programs will be funded with nearly $76 million in fiscal
2011, which means that the U.S. Department of Education agreed to the
40 percent cut.

It’s a big blow, the advocates say, and they’re lobbying Congress to
restore the fiscal 2010 level of funding in the budget for fiscal year
2012, which begins Oct. 1.

Justin Hamilton, a spokesman for the Education Department, wrote in an
email, “We’re in one of the most difficult budget environments in
recent memory” and that has resulted in “some painful cuts.” He added:
“We’re committed to the mission of international education and will
continue working to do all we can to make sure our students are
prepared to successfully compete in a global economy.”

Some advocates for language education say the most crucial of the
higher education programs for K-12 teaching and learning of foreign
languages is the authorization of money to pay for 15
language-resource centers at universities. Those centers received $5
million in 2010. The research, materials, and professional development
the centers provide for precollegiate educators help improve the
quality of foreign-language study, the advocates say.

“With them being cut, I wonder what will be the concerted effort to
provide high-quality resources, teacher training, development of
curriculum, development of assessments, and having people who present
on and write about the issues” in language education, said Joy Kreeft
Peyton, a vice president of the Washington-based Center for Applied

Heritage Languages
The language-resource center housed at the University of California,
Los Angeles, for instance, has formalized into a national initiative
what had been primarily a volunteer effort to advance the bilingualism
of heritage speakers, Ms. Peyton said.

Heritage speakers are exposed to a language other than English while
growing up but may not have developed full literacy or fluency in that

Related Blog

Visit this blog.The UCLA center started a journal on heritage
languages, has held conferences about them, and offers summer
institutes for teachers. And it has conducted research on how
assessment of the language proficiency of heritage speakers should be
different from that of native speakers or second-language learners,
Ms. Peyton said.

Marty Abbott, the director of education for the American Council on
the Teaching of Foreign Languages, said: “There has been an emphasis
in what the [Obama] administration has said about the importance of
learning languages. We’re very confident those statements can be
turned into action eventually.”

She added: “We haven’t seen it yet.”

Ms. Abbott said the budget cuts don’t make sense, given that the U.S.
Department of Defense and other agencies need to hire a larger pool of
linguists and other people who have high levels of proficiency in
languages. She said having students begin to study foreign languages
in elementary or secondary school, or even colleges, is key to meeting
the demand.

Miriam Kazanjian, a consultant for the Coalition for International
Education, a group of more than 30 higher education associations that
promotes the U.S. Department of Education’s foreign-language programs,
said a number of the programs nested in Title VI of the Higher
Education Act have K-12 components.

Title VI authorizes money for 127 national resource centers as well as
the 15 regional language-resource centers, for instance. Many of the
programs have some kind of K-12 outreach, which typically is
professional development for teachers or a section of a center’s
website promoting resources for K-12 educators, Ms. Kazanjian said.

Elaine E. Tarone is the director of the Center for Advanced Research
on Language Acquisition at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities,
another of the language-resource centers authorized by the Higher
Education Act. “We’re not big, but we think we’re effective,” she said
about the language-resource centers.

She cited studies not yet released by the Education Department that
report on the effectiveness of language and international education
programs authorized by the Higher Education Opportunity Act.

One study, an evaluation of the effectiveness of the International
Research and Studies Program, which supports the development of
instructional materials in foreign languages and area studies and is
one of the 14 programs authorized by Title VI and the Fulbright-Hays
provisions, was conducted by the Bethesda, Md.-based J.B.L. Associates
Inc. Gina Shkodriani, a researcher for the report, said in an email
that the report was turned in to the Education Department in March

A more recent evaluation of foreign-language programs financed by the
Education Department was carried out by the Washington-based American
Institutes for Research.

Vol. 30, Issue 33, Page 19



 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com


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