State leaders call for greater multilingual education opportunities
STATE HOUSE – Rep. David Morales, Sen. Sandra Cano and Sen. Frank A Ciccone III were joined by Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green, representatives of Gov. Daniel McKee and the Coalition of a Multilingual RI at a State House event advocating for resources to expand multilingual education opportunities to all Rhode Island students.
Participants asked for a comprehensive, state-coordinated effort to expand high-quality multilingual education programs, including leadership at the state level, support for preparation of multilingual educators, and incentives for students to continue language study.
“Rhode Island – and especially my own city, Providence – is a diverse place, enriched by the many cultures of people who choose to make this their home. Our schools should reflect that diversity, and equip our students with the tools they need to communicate and understand others in their own circles and globally. Multilingualism is a critical skill that we must better promote and support among our students for the future success of our state, our nation and our world,” said Representative Morales (D-Dist. 7, Providence), who is sponsoring legislation (2022-H 7607) to allow high school students who graduate with a silver or gold Seal of Biliteracy to earn two to four semesters of college credit toward a minor or major in language at a public university or community college.
Said Senator Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket), “Our students need and deserve multilingual fluency. That means we recognize and meet them with the language they already know, and fully support them in becoming fluent in other languages, whether they are starting in English or learning it. I was an English as a Second Language student myself, and am bilingual. As someone who is a product of multilingual education, I firmly believe in the importance of these investments, which provide competitive advantages to our students in the future. ”
Senator Cano is the sponsor of legislation (2022-S 2174) to better support English language learners through the state’s education funding formula.
Said Senator Ciccone (D-Dist. 7, Providence, North Providence), who last year sponsored legislation (2021-S 0457) that would establish and require funding for dual language immersion programs in public schools, “Our society has changed and the demographics of our population, especially in our schools, is no longer adequately served by the old model of language instruction and education. Our global economy and society depend on multilingual workers and in order for our children to be successful in this expansive multilingual world, we must provide high-quality language learning programs in our public schools.”
Speakers at today’s event noted that the state has made progress, for example, creating a multilingual learner specialist position within the Department of Education to support statewide improvement for multilingual learners.
Encouraging more students to learn multiple languages is an advantage to Rhode Island, they said.
“Whether it’s in the halls of government or in a school classroom, our best work happens when there is a diversity of voices around the table. Exposure to new languages and cultures in school can prepare our children to become leaders in the global economy and help them understand other points of view. I grew up in a multilingual home and have raised my children in one, too, so I am proud to support efforts to expand access to a multilingual curriculum for students in Rhode Island,” said Secretary of State Gorbea.