Language Funding in Jeopardy

Foreign Language Assistance Program Cuts

In an effort to prevent government shut down, the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a proposal, HR 1, which contains $100 billion in cuts from the President’s FY 2011 budget request. To reach that number the House cut billions through eliminations, reductions, and rescissions, including the elimination of the Foreign Language Assistance Program (FLAP) within the Department of Education.

FLAP is the only source of federal education funding for K-12 foreign language innovation and best practices. The $26.9 million in funding are being used to develop programs in critical languages to help support our economic and national security interests and prepare our graduates to compete in the 21st century. The US Department of Education awards, on average, between 25-35 FLAP grants each year to local education agencies and state education agencies.

Last Friday, March 4th, the Senate Democratic Leadership introduced their version of a seven-month Continuing Resolution which would maintain FLAP funding at the current levels. In contrast, the House-passed CR would cut $51 billion more than the Senate measure, with the vast majority of House cuts coming from non-defense spending. The Senate will vote on HR 1—the House proposal and the Democratic alternative, on Tuesday March 8th. Although neither is expected to get the 60 votes needed to advance, the votes will set the parameters for the upcoming budget negotiations and determine the final level for FLAP funding this year.

Need for Increased World Language Programs

Only 25 percent of elementary schools in the United States offered any world languages in 2008, down from 31 percent in 1997. American secondary schools offer more opportunities yet involvement is still low; currently, only half of all American high school students take even one year of a world language. Like many other academic advantages, language-learning opportunities are less available in urban schools than in suburban or private schools. For the past fifty years, school language choices have remained for the most part the same commonly taught European languages. Many FLAP grants aim to change this, focusing on programs that provide students the opportunity to learn a critical need foreign language such as Mandarin or Arabic.

The American language-education offerings contrast markedly with those of other countries where learning a second language is a higher priority. Twenty out of twenty-five industrialized countries start teaching world languages in grades K-5 and twenty-one of the thirty-one countries in the European Union require nine years of language study. It is not surprising that a 2007 report from the National Academy of Sciences warned, “The pervasive lack of knowledge of foreign cultures and languages threatens the security of the United States as well as its ability to compete in the global marketplace and produce an informed citizenry.”

To find out more about FLAP grants and where they have been awarded, please see: 


Presentation by Shuhan Wang, Finding Solutions: Reforming World Language Teacher Supply System. STARTALK 2009 Teacher Certification Summit. December 2009. Accessed:

National Academy of Sciences, Rising above the gathering storm: Energizing and employing America for a brighter economic future. (2007) Available:

Discussion Question

What can we do to help save the FLAP program?