U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today announced his recent introduction of legislation to help legal American immigrants learn English and obtain a basic grasp of U.S. history and civics, which he says “they need to grow and thrive in America.” He said yesterday’s release of a report he asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to produce on the state of English language proficiency in the U.S. further demonstrated how needed this legislation is.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Alexander introduced the Strengthen and Unite Communities with Civics Education and English Skills Act of 2009 last week to address many of the needs the GAO study confirmed. It contains a number of measures to help legal U.S. immigrants, including new tax breaks for businesses to provide English language training for workers, tax incentives for English teachers, and a stronger integration of English and U.S. history teaching in adult education programs.
“One of America’s greatest accomplishments is the manner in which we unite our magnificent diversity, and one way we have done that is by speaking a common language, English, and learning what it means to be American,” said Alexander. “I’m glad to offer this legislation to help encourage legal immigrants to understand and use our national language and to recognize efforts made by businesses, states and local communities to do the same.”
The GAO study Alexander requested found that the number of adults who describe how well they speak English as less than “very well” grew by 21.8 percent from 2000 to 2007, and that most state adult education programs are reporting increased demand for the English programs they offer.
“If we truly want to be one country, every adult American who needs help learning English should get it,” Alexander said. “It is unacceptable for there to be long lines of adults waiting to learn the common language that helps unite us. The GAO report released yesterday confirms that federal dollars aren’t being used as efficiently as possible to reduce those lines.”