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Advocating for English Learners

Christie Sosa

Advocating for English Learners: Are You Ready to Take Action for Learners, Their Teachers, and Their Programs!

By Judith B. O’Loughlin, CATESOL Advocacy and Policy Advisor (

From June 22-24 I attended the 2020 TESOL Annual Advocacy and Policy Summit representing CATESOL. This year the Summit was delivered virtually for advocates from all over the U.S. and internationally representing TESOL Affiliates. Days one and two were dedicated to providing attendees with updated information about what was happening related to upcoming legislation about English learners, their programs, and their teachers. There were speakers from 9 AM – 5 PM PT.  Much of the first day was devoted to understanding what is happening for K-12 programs and the second day focused on the adult learner both nationally and internationally.

On the third day, participants wrote and called their legislators in both the House of Representatives and Senate to encourage them to support the bills that were introduced on Day One by David Cutler, TESOL’s Policy and Advocacy Policy and Communications Manager (Read The Unapologetic Advocate:  Why We Advocate: In Previous years, when advocates were  able to be face-to-face, we made appointments with our Representatives and Senators offices and met with their staff to discuss the issues, or “the asks.”  
So, what are this year’s “asks” and what can you do? Listed with each description is where the bill originated – House (H.R.  or Senate (S.)

Here are the asks and where you can find out more about the legislations.
  • Pass the HEROES Act in the Senate  (H.R. 6800)  Ask your Senators to pass the Senate version of this bill which will provide $100 billion to support PK-12 and adult education, as well as post-secondary educational institutions because these institutions are facing shortfalls in funding due to the pandemic.
  • Pass the REACH ACT –Reaching English Learners Act (H.R. 1153 and S. 545) which provides funding and grants for training future teachers of English Learners and addressing the country’s critical shortage of English language teachers.
  • Support the SPELL Act – Supporting Providers of English Language Learners (H.R. 4389).  The bill provides student loan forgiveness for English Language teachers.  It also designates that English language teachers are as valued as educations of other content areas, which includes math and science teachers.  Bot are currently eligible for increased student debt forgiveness. 
  • Pass the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 (H.R. 6) and the Dream Act of 2019 (S. 874) Provides a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients and other undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. 

What other asks?  
  • Fund Title III ESSA at $985 million for FY2021.  Title III is supplemental funding for instructional programs for English learners.  Title III supplements but does not supplant funding of programs for English learners.
  • Fund Title II of WIOA (Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act)  at $693 million for FY2021.  WIOA funds adult education and family literacy programs. 

What can you do?
  • Go to the TESOL Advocacy Action Center.  You don’t have to be a member of TESOL to use this resource.
  • Set up your profile
  • Here you can review legislation
  • You can send your legislators an email with your support for the various bills described above
  • You can tailor your message and provide your legislators with some specific examples of students in your program and their needs.  Most legislators like to hear about your students.
  • You can sign up for alerts.
  • Inform TESOL about the impact of policies on your program. 
Take Action!  Advocate!  Contact your Congressmen!