Velázquez Calls for Improved Language Education
Today, Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.) joined area first and third graders, and their teachers at P.S. 94, the Long Fellow School in Brooklyn, as she introduced The Language Education for Success Act of 2007, a bill aimed at helping English Language Learners (ELL) and students throughout New York City.
"The importance of learning the English language, and receiving a good education, cannot be underestimated," said Congresswoman Velazquez. "It is difficult enough today to learn math and science, let alone if you don't understand the language that it is being taught to you in. That is why we need to ensure that our school systems are equipped to help these students. My legislation will enable schools to develop a solid program aimed and helping our youth master the English language."
Congresswoman Velázquez visited P.S. 94 today, a school that has a program in place to teach students English and prepare them for advancement. However, a number of schools throughout New York, and the U.S., continue to struggle. In fact, it is estimated that there are over 141,000 English Language Learners (ELLs) in New York City public schools, making it clear that a number of youth in New York City are simply not receiving the guidance they need when it comes to learning the English language. As a result of these barriers, they run the risk of never truly comprehending classroom material, and often become frustrated, increasing the chances that they will drop out of school as they get older. Many times this will prevent these students from ever accessing the training they need to successfully enter the workforce.
"We are letting our kids down when they need us most," said Congresswoman Velazquez. "Once they are out of school and in the workforce, our window of opportunity to teach them English closes. We have a responsibility to ensure that every child is given the best possible chance to succeed in the classroom and in life. The number one way to do this is by recruiting the best and brightest talent to teach our children the English language."
Qualified, trained teachers are critical in enabling ELL students to simultaneously gain proficiency in English and comprehend classroom material to the standards expected of them. The focus must be on recruiting teachers equipped with the specialized training necessary to adequately address the language deficiency issue. Currently, any teacher who teaches in a low-income/Title I school district for 5 years is eligible for up to $5,000 in student loan forgiveness. If those same teachers teach math or science, the amount rises to $17,500. The Language Education for Success Act of 2007 would make ELL teachers eligible for that same amount, attracting more qualified teachers into the field. Additionally, the bill also offers new incentives to excite entering college students about the education profession and language instruction, helping to expand a trained workforce to teach ELL youth.
"Our society benefits when every child leaves school prepared for college and the workforce," said Congresswoman Velazquez. "English Language Learners, are at the mercy of a broken system and are more vulnerable to dropping out. Having committed and well-qualified teachers is key to fully addressing this problem. The Language Education for Success Act of 2007 does just that, and is a major step forward in helping our youth to succeed."
English Language Learners account for 10.3 percent of public school enrollment nationwide, and are concentrated in urban school districts. ELL's represent an even larger percentage of the overall student population in New York City, making up 13.4 percent of kids, or 141,173 children. The Language Education for Success Act of 2007 addresses the needs of this growing immigrant population, fostering a more efficient education system to promote success.