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2024 TESOL Virtual Advocacy Day: Elevating and Impacting ELT Policy

by Jeff Hutcheson |

More than 50 countries this year will hold or have already held national elections, directly impacting half of the world's population. The United States is one of those countries, and one in which not only do citizens exercise their right to vote but also engage in taking issues directly to their members of Congress, a right enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.

More than 30 English language professionals from across the United States and the world joined TESOL this May in elevating the policies related to issues that impact the English language teaching (ELT) profession and the multilingual learners of English (MLEs) we serve. These participants took active roles in bringing these policies to the attention of U.S. Congressional members. 

This virtual event represents Part One of a yearlong engagement to open access to and participation in advocacy efforts, reimagining our annual Advocacy & Policy Summit for our members and affiliates.

Attendees received insightful and engaging updates on policy and legislation from a variety of presenters, including the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA). OELA outlined initiatives for the Seal of Biliteracy and Dual Language Instruction, all part of the department’s Raise the Bar campaign. Included in the highlight were resources and toolkits for MLEs and their families, and newcomers.

Presenters also covered topics impacting policies on newcomers, the undocumented in higher education, and adult MLEs. The National Newcomer Network covered its national policy platform, which includes funding and professional development in support of newcomers and their families along with the schools, communities, and states serving them.

The Presidents’ Alliance updated the challenges ahead for Dreamers, under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), strongly urging more action for comprehensive immigration reform and support for the Dream Act and the American Dream and Promise Act. For state issues, the Alliance showcased its work in tracking state legislation for higher education access, tuition equity, and professional licensing.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) engaged attendees on the issues impacting adult MLEs who participate in AEFLA1-funded programs. Identified in the update were the numbers of adult MLEs in these programs, ranging year-to-year from 35% to almost 50% of participants. This number served as a backdrop for the fact that only 10% of educators in these programs have TESOL certification.

Roger Rosenthal, a long-time supporter of TESOL, the ELT profession, and MLEs, provided us with context and information on the rights of immigrants and MLEs within U.S. public education, placing the realities of the policies we support in a real-world context.

We rounded out the event with updates on the issues that TESOL supports—issues covering all levels of education for MLEs and extending into communities. The forefront of these issues will be federal funding, as the U.S. government has limits through fiscal year 2026 on overall spending set by federal legislation in 2023. Our voices are needed now more than ever in the appropriations process.

TESOL Advocacy Action Days - A Message From U.S. Representative Adriano Espaillat

This year, virtual Hill visits took place on 1 May and were kicked off by Debra Suarez, TESOL president, who encouraged all attendees in their advocacy. After her keynote, attendees received inspiration from a recorded welcome presented by U.S. Representative Adriano Espaillat (D-NY-13), the first Dominican American to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives; Representative Espaillat sponsors several of the bills TESOL supports.

We invite everyone to join us for the second part of our Advocacy Action Days on 23 July, when we’ll have our fly-in Hill visits. We will have additional updates and more activity, and we especially look forward to taking our voices in person! Join us by registering here.

As always, you can be an advocate and take the issues that matter to you to your member of Congress today through our Advocacy Action Center.

 1AEFLA is the Adult Education and Literacy Act, which is Title II of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, the federal funding vehicle for adult education programs.

About the author

Jeff Hutcheson

Jeff Hutcheson leads efforts to raise awareness and voices for multilingual learners of English and TESOL professionals. From his first teaching position in Bangkok and throughout his 20+ year career in the ESL field, Jeff has worked with diverse groups and voices in building environments for success and support. As TESOL’s director of advocacy and public policy, Jeff works closely with TESOL’s members and affiliates on policy and issues to ensure their interests are served and advanced at all levels—locally, federally, and globally. 

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