Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-CA) introduced the Biliteracy Education Seal and Teaching (BEST) Act, legislation that establishes a federal grant program to help states create, implement, and improve Seal of Biliteracy programs that encourage and recognize high school students who achieve proficiency in both English and at least one other language, which will better enable young people to compete in the global workforce. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. Senate.
“Being proficient in two or more languages can be a critical advantage in today’s globalized, competitive economy. By ensuring states establish and carry out a Seal of Biliteracy program, we can properly equip our students with language proficiency while also better safeguarding our future national security,” said Congresswoman Brownley. “I have seen first-hand the benefits of this program across the State of California and more specifically in my district, where many students are fluent in more than one language and bilingualism is very prominent. It is important for our schools to prepare our students with the 21st Century skills, like multilingualism, that will benefit them tremendously in their future academic and professional careers.”
“In today’s interconnected world, learning a second language not only helps students perform better in school, but also improves problem-solving skills and chances at professional success,” said Senator Schatz. “In Hawaiʻi, students have the unique opportunity to earn a Seal of Biliteracy for fluency in the Hawaiian language. Our bill will improve and expand this important program nationwide so that every student can be recognized for learning a second language.”
“The revised BEST Act is a statement by its sponsors, Congresswoman Julia Brownley and Senator Brian Schatz, that multilingualism is an asset to be recognized for students and should be available equitably to all learners, especially English language learners and heritage learners,” said Amanda Seewald, Executive Director of the Joint National Committee for Languages and the National Council for Languages and International Studies (JNCL-NCLIS). “This bill’s emphasis on implementing Seal of Biliteracy programs broadly in school districts across the nation will help students acquire the skills they need for college, career, and life, and uplift the languages that are central to identity for so many. JNCL-NCLIS has been honored to work on this legislation with such dedicated legislators and look forward to its passage.”
California’s State Seal of Biliteracy program was first established in 2011 when legislation sponsored by then-Assemblywoman Brownley was signed into law. Since then, over 250,000 high school students have graduated with this seal in California. In the 2021-2022 school year, 351 districts in California participated in the program. The program has also been replicated in 49 states and the District of Columbia, which have each approved and established their own statewide Seal of Biliteracy programs.
The BEST Act is co-sponsored by Representatives Gerald Connolly (D-VA), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA, and Linda Sánchez (D-CA) and supported by the Joint National Committee for Languages and the National Council for Languages and International Studies (JNCL-NCLIS), National Education Association, California Language Teachers’ Association, Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents, Californians Together, and the National Association for Bilingual Education.
Read the full text of the bill, here.