Beware Efficiency!

Beware the following: “We’re making things much more efficient,” especially if coupled with “you should demand better!”

For more than 40 years, the United States Department of Education has supported State and Local Education Agencies in furthering multiliteracy for America’s English Learners (ELs), through the programs of the Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA). Authorized under 20 USC §3420 et seq., the Office is established as an entity whose Director, by statute, reports to the Secretary of Education.

The structure of the Office on the one hand reflects the history of the program, driven by the civil rights imperative and Supreme Court case law (Lau v. Nichols) to ensure equal access to education for our nation’s ELs, and on the other, the recognition by successive administrations and Congresses that OELA plays the lead role in providing expertise, advice, information, research, and assistance to SEAs and LEAs, educators, and parents, all while serving as the key proponent office in the Federal Government for the rapidly growing and increasingly diverse population of ELs in our schools. OELA is the key federal partner in Dual Language Immersion and the Seal of Biliteracy.

Indeed, on February 15, the Honorable José Viana, Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education and the Director of the Office of English Language Acquisition, read Secretary Betsy DeVos’ message to the annual meeting of the Joint National Committee for Languages, in Washington. She concluded with:

Students who are competent in two, three, four languages are better prepared for every turn in their careers and lives.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Education is now on an efficiency kick. One proposed efficiency is the reorganization of OELA. We’ve been told that doing so would have all sorts of benefits, solve all sorts of problems (that we didn’t know we have). While the details of the plan are sparse, I think we should leave well enough alone – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. To that end, many organizations have written to Secretary DeVos.

If you’re concerned, and you should be, let us know, and let your congressperson and Senators know, as well.

Bill Rivers
Author: Bill Rivers

Dr. Bill Rivers has more than 25 years of leadership experience in culture and language for economic development and national security, with expertise in the private, public, and non-profits sectors, in research, assessment, program evaluation, policy development and advocacy. Before joining JNCL-NCLIS, he served as Chief Scientist at Integrated Training Solutions, Inc., a small business in Arlington, Virginia. While at ITS, he served in a contractor role as the Chief Linguist of the National Language Service Corps. Prior to working at ITS, he was co-founder of the Center for Advanced Study of Language at the University of Maryland.

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