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Heinrich Cosponsors Legislation to Promote Biliteracy and Bilingualism in High Schools

WASHINGTON – Last week, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) joined U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and U.S. Representative Julia Brownley (D-Calif.) to introduce the Biliteracy Education Seal and Teaching (BEST) Act, legislation that would provide federal grants to states to create Seal of Biliteracy programs that encourage and recognize high school students who achieve proficiency in at least two languages.  

“In New Mexico, we value our diversity as one of our greatest strengths. Bilingualism is baked into our state's constitution,” said Heinrich. “We were the first state in the nation to fund bilingual education and one of the first to adopt a seal of biliteracy. I am cosponsoring the federal Biliteracy Education Seal and Teaching Act because in New Mexico, we know that our multilingualism keeps students grounded in the traditions of their home communities while simultaneously preparing them for career success in a global economy.” 

“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 Schatz. “In Hawai‘i, 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 Senate bill is also cosponsored by U.S. Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). 

“Knowing the many cognitive, academic, social, and economic benefits associated with becoming bilingual, the BEST Act will serve to expand student access to quality bilingual and dual language programs,” said Michael Rodríguez, Executive Director of Dual Language Education of New Mexico. “For New Mexico, this Act provides an impetus to continue examining our State Seal of Bilingualism-Biliteracy and ensure that we elevate and honor the many languages and cultures that have shaped the identity of our state.” 

“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.” 

The full text of the bill is available HERE.