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Diegnan & Ruiz Bill to Establish Grant Program to Develop Dual Language Immersion Programs Passes Senate

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr. and Senator M. Teresa Ruiz to establish a grant program for school districts and charter schools to develop dual language immersion programs cleared the full Senate today.

“The best way for a student to excel in a foreign language is an immersion program,” said Senator Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “The ability to be bilingual or multilingual is increasingly necessary for study, work and coexistence, and provides cultural awareness to children at a young age.  It also gives young people a more pluralistic vision of the world which helps them be prepared for the demands of the 21st century labor market.  Most importantly it contributes to the economic diversity and growth of our state.”

The bill, S-1630, would require the Commissioner of Education, with the approval of the State Board of Educations, to establish and administer a dual language immersion program that would begin in kindergarten or first grade and meet any other requirements established by the commissioner. Under the bill, any school district or charter school which wants to apply to participate in the grant program should submit a proposal to the commissioner in such form as prescribed by the commissioner.

“Exposing children to a second language from a very early age results in substantial long-term cognitive benefits but also provides them increased opportunities as a valuable commodity in the competitive labor field as adults,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “This bill will encourage school districts to offer immersion programs that will contribute to improving the quality of education as well as the conceptual development of a child. Our hope is that this grant funding will expand language immersion programs to more districts across the state.” 

The commissioner would select grant recipients based upon the quality of the proposed program and its potential to increase student biliteracy, and would select recipients in the northern, central, and southern regions of the State. The commissioner would allocate to each selected school district and charter school a grant in such amount as the commissioner may deem necessary to support the dual language immersion program. The school district or charter school would be eligible to receive funds if it uses an instructional model that provides at least 50 percent of its instruction in Chinese, Spanish, French, or any other language approved by the commissioner.

The bill would establish the Dual Language Immersion Program Fund as a non-lapsing revolving fund in the Department of Education to finance the grant program.

The bill was cleared by the Senate with a vote of 35-1.