Testimony in Support of HB7514 An Act Relating to Education

Last updated: March 07, 2024

Testimony in Support of HB7514
An Act Relating to Education – Support and Access to Bilingual Education Create a Dual Language Program Fund Administered by RIDE
House Committee on Education
February 28th, 2024
Kavya Gopinath, Policy Analyst, Economic Progress Institute

The Economic Progress Institute supports Representative Leonela Felix’s HB7514, which creates a dual language program fund administered by RIDE for districts to start, expand, and improve PK-12 dual language programs.

All students deserve equal opportunities to learn regardless of language barriers. Currently, Rhode Island is underinvesting in its multilingual learners. A 2023 RIPEC study found that Rhode Island ranks 5th lowest out of 31 states in spending on multilingual learners. Rhode Island severely lags behind its neighbors, spending $1,100 less per student annually than Connecticut and $1,060 less per student . This is especially concerning considering that the multilingual learner population in RI has grown by 62.8 percent since 2015 and currently makes up 12.5 percent of the overall student population.1

The solution is to increase funding for dual language programs that encourage students to engage with materials in two different languages. These programs embrace the culture of multilingual learners and encourage them to see their language skills as an asset.2 Dual language programs have been shown to improve English reading proficiency, decrease dropout rates, increase the likelihood of going to college, and improve economic outcomes for multilingual students.3

Dual language programs also benefit students who speak English as a first language. In the US, bilingual employees are paid an average of 5 to 20 percent more than if they were monolingual. Ninety percent of US employers report a reliance on employees who know a language other than English. Multilingualism is a growing priority among employers; to make sure students have opportunities to succeed, Rhode Island needs to invest in dual language programs.

HB7514 would improve equity in Rhode Island by ensuring that all students have equal opportunities to learn regardless of language barriers. Multilingual students are also more likely to live in low-income households and attend high-poverty schools, so this bill would target and improve outcomes for historically marginalized communities.4 The Economic Progress Institute strongly urges passage of HB7514.


Back to all publications
You can help

Like this publication? Please consider supporting EPI.

Your support powers the research, communications, and partnership building necessary to make policy work for people, so every Rhode Islander can achieve their goal for a healthy and vibrant life.