Diaz-Balart, Murphy Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Increase English-Language Instruction Funding for Florida K-12 Schools
Apr 15, 2021
Legislation will ensure Florida is treated fairly under federal grant program by fully capturing students who move to the state from Puerto Rico
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, U.S. Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla and Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla. introduced bipartisan legislation to ensure Florida and other states receive their fair share of federal funding to provide English-language instruction to K-12 students. The bill, called the ELEVATE Act, will improve the formula that the U.S. Department of Education uses to make grants to states so they can hire teachers and purchase instruction materials to help non-native English-speaking students learn English. The current funding formula does not fully capture students who relocate to a state from Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory where Spanish is the primary language of instruction. The bill will correct this flaw, which will be especially helpful to states like Florida that have large and growing Puerto Rican populations. There are about 540,000 Florida residents who were born in Puerto Rico.
The House bill was introduced at the same time as an identical Senate bill, filed today by U.S. Senators Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Rick Scott, R-Fla., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.
“I am proud to join my colleagues in reintroducing the ELEVATE Act,” said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart. “This legislation revises the Department of Education’s grant formula to ensure schools receive the necessary resources to provide high-quality English education to students who relocate from Puerto Rico, and whose primary language is Spanish. The ELEVATE Act is crucial for communities like Miami-Dade County, which receives the highest amount of English Language Acquisition funding in Florida. I thank Rep. Murphy and Senators Rubio, Murphy, and Blumenthal for their leadership on this important issue, and I look forward to enacting this permanent solution for the betterment of our students.”
“As it is for so many Floridians, English is my second language. I grew up in a Vietnamese-speaking household and I was fortunate to learn English at school,” said Murphy. “I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation that will ensure Florida schools have the resources they need to help English-learners excel in the classroom and be better equipped to succeed in this country.”
“By correcting this existing flaw, we are ensuring the U.S. Department of Education fully captures the number of K-12 students who relocate to a mainland state from Puerto Rico,” Rubio said. “I am proud to reintroduce this bipartisan bill, which will allow Puerto Rican students to be fully counted in the annual grant allocation that states receive under the English Language Acquisition grant program and increase funding for Florida.”
“I will always do everything I can to support Puerto Rican families and make sure all students have the resources they need,” Scott said. “I’m proud to support the ELEVATE Act which ensures our schools have the federal resources needed to help English-learning students succeed and live their dreams.”
Under federal law, the U.S. Department of Education provides annual English Language Acquisition grants to states, who provide most of that funding to school districts in the state. School districts use these grants to help K-12 public school students who are learning English.
The ELEVATE Act increases the amount of funding that Florida—and certain other states—receive each year. It does this by fixing a flaw in the current formula that captures students that have moved to a state from foreign countries, but does not fully capture students that have moved to the state from Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory where Spanish is widely spoken in schools and at home. The bill makes this change in a way that recognizes and respects that families that relocate from Puerto Rico to the U.S. mainland are American citizens moving from one U.S. jurisdiction to another.
To see a fact sheet on the Ensuring Linguistic Excellence and Vocational Aptitude by Teaching English (ELEVATE) Act, click here. To see the full text of the bill, click here.