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TESOL Statement on the FY 2021 U.S. Federal Budget and COVID-19 Relief Bill

by David Cutler | 01/04/2021
TESOL International Association (TESOL) applauds the U.S. Congress for passing a FY 2021 federal budget that includes much-needed funding increases for several programs and initiatives impacting English learners (ELs) and English language educators. Spending on education will increase by US$785 million to a total of US$73 billion. TESOL is pleased to see that, in passing the FY 2021 federal budget, Congress loudly rejected the drastic cuts to education that were included in the president’s budget proposal this past spring.

Though TESOL is disappointed that many of its funding recommendations for the current Congress were not fully realized, we believe the increased funding to the following programs represents progress toward meeting the needs of the growing EL population in the United States. The FY 2021 funding allocations include the following increases:

• US$10 million for Title III of the Every Student Succeeds Act, totaling US$797 million in supplemental funding for ELs in K–12 public schools

• US$18 million for Title II of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, totaling US$689 million for adult and family EL education programs
• US$1 million for the Office of Civil Rights within the U.S. Department of Education, totaling US$131 million to ensure equal access to education
• US$11 million to Title II-A of the Every Student Succeeds Act, totaling US$2.14 billion for the professional development of K–12 teachers and administrators
• US$227 million to Title I of the Every Student Succeeds Act, totaling US$16.5 billion for disadvantaged K–12 students
• US$135 million for early childhood education through the Head Start program, totaling US$10.7 billion, administered by the Department of Health and Human Services

In addition to the increases for education in the FY 2021 federal budget, TESOL is pleased that sorely needed financial assistance for all levels of education was provided in the latest COVID-19 relief bill, which was passed along with the federal budget. These additional funds are intended for schools, programs, colleges, and universities to defray the numerous costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The US$82 billion Education Stabilization Fund includes the following:  

• US$4.1 billion for the Governors Emergency Education Relief Fund

• US$54.3 billion for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund

• US$22.7 billion for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund

• US$255 million for Head Start (as part of US$73 billion in relief for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) 

This new relief funding is a promising next step, as most educational entities have exhausted the previous round of relief funding granted to them under the CARES Act in March 2020. Realistically, however, schools and programs at all levels of education will need continued financial support at the federal level throughout the next fiscal year, especially as local and state financial assistance was not included in Congress’s latest relief bill. TESOL is calling on the upcoming 117th Congress and incoming administration of President-Elect Biden and Vice President–Elect Harris to continue negotiations and provide further federal financial assistance to schools, programs, and institutions of higher education across the United States. 

TESOL is grateful for its many dedicated members and persistent advocates who have worked diligently to contact their members of Congress and advocate for increased federal funding and improved learning opportunities for ELs and their teachers during these challenging times. We look forward to continuing and strengthening our practice of advocating for programs that impact ELs and English language teachers in the United States and around the world.