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Two-language certification advocated for graduates

To help the future U.S. workforce compete in an increasingly global economy, a lawmaker wants states to grant certification to high-school students who can demonstrate proficiency in English and at least one other language.

Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Calif., has filed a bill to establish a nationwide program akin to the one she championed in California, where high school seniors receive a State Seal of Biliteracy if they can prove they can read and write two languages or more.

Brownley advocates creating a federal grant program to encourage states to follow California’s lead.

”For a young person to be biliterate and bilingual – they can read and write in a second language – it’s so critical to 21st century skills and jobs,” she said. ”I don’t think we as a country do the very best job of this, so it’s critically important for our young people to speak a second language.”

More than 10,000 students earned California’s gold seal last year, the first year of the program. The seal is affixed to the diploma of graduating students who meet certain academic criteria.

”When a college or employer sees the Seal of Biliteracy on a diploma or resume, they know this is an individual with an important and unique 21st century skill,” Brownley said.

If Brownley’s federal bill becomes law, states that are interested in creating a similar program or improving existing programs could apply for grants through the U.S. Department of Education.

Each state would set up its own set of proficiency standards that students would have to meet to earn the state’s seal. The federal Education Department would determine the size of each state grant.

To fund the program, Congress would appropriate $10 million a year for five years. Brownley’s bill would authorize the federal program but would not allocate any money for it. Congress would have to pass a separate funding bill.

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