Legislative Update

Massachusetts Language Opportunity Coalition Statement on the 2015-16 Legislative Session

Language Opportunity Sketch_1.16We are sorry to report that the Massachusetts legislative session ended on January 4, 2017 with failure to pass either the LOOK Bill (H.498/S.262 An Act relative to Language Opportunity for Our Kids) or the Seal of Biliteracy Bill (H.422 An Act to Establish a State Seal of Biliteracy / S.336 An Act to Promote Global Trade and Economic Development through Biliteracy ).

The goal of the LOOK Bill is to encourage the development of English Learner (EL) programs that support the development of bilingualism and biliteracy by removing the current mandate requiring Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) as the “one size fits all” default program model. It also establishes the State Seal of Biliteracy to recognize high school graduates who speak, read and write in two languages. The Seal of Biliteracy is also filed as a standalone bill, with the same language included in the LOOK Bill.

Earlier in the summer, both Chambers (House and Senate) passed different versions of the LOOK bill.  Unfortunately, at the last legislative session on January 4, the Senate and House were not able to reach agreement on a reconciliation of the two versions. The Senate passed the standalone Seal of Biliteracy bill, but the House failed to act on it.

Despite our disappointment at the legislature’s failure to pass these bills, the Language Opportunity Coalition has made positive progress during the past two years towards improving education for English Learners and promoting the value of bilingualism and biliteracy:

  • A majority of our state Senators and Representatives voted in favor of both bills, signaling wide support for the goals of the legislation.
  • Our Coalition has grown and strengthened. We had the opportunity to speak with many legislators, community leaders, business leaders, and educators about the benefits of developing a bilingual and biliterate workforce.
  • We have spearheaded a successful Seal of Biliteracy Pilot Program that resulted in 300+ award recipients and the participation of 30+ World Language programs, Two-Way Immersion (TWI) and Transitional Bilingual Education (TBE) programs in the first year of the pilot in 2015-16.  
  • This year, in our second year of the Seal of Biliteracy pilot, we have doubled the participating districts and anticipate at least doubling the award recipients.  

The Coalition has been working with legislators to refile both bills by January 20th, the beginning of the 2017-18 legislative cycle. Yesterday, Senator Karen Spilka and Representative Kay Khan submitted the Seal of Biliteracy (SD1122 An Act to promote global trade and economic development through biliteracy / HD924).  Senator Sal DiDomenico and Representative Tony Cabral submitted the LOOK bill (SD155 An Act for language opportunity for our kids / HD3537 An Act to reform English language learning education).

Soon we will be asking for your support in contacting your legislators to seek co-sponsorship for the legislation.  We are optimistic that with our prior groundwork and your continued help we can successfully pass these important bills.

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