Senator Cano reaffirms commitment to multilingual education


STATE HOUSE – In light of concerns raised by federal officials over a lack of English language development instruction at a Providence high school for multilingual learners, Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket) is reaffirming her commitment to increase Rhode Island’s investment in multilingual education.


In a recent letter, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division notified Providence Public Schools and the Rhode Island Department of Education that Newcomer Academy in Providence, which opened in 2023 as a high school for recent immigrants over the age of 17 whose education has been interrupted, has not provided adequate English instruction to its students as required under a 2018 agreement reached between DOJ and Providence schools. Newcomer Academy serves 180 multilingual learners, and many of the students reportedly signed a petition asking the school for more English language classes.


“I am disappointed by the findings outlined in the U.S. Department of Justice letter, and I stand with the Newcomer Academy students and families who are calling for additional resources to support their multilingual education,” said Chairwoman Cano. “This issue is extremely personal for me, because when I was 16, my family came to Pawtucket from Colombia under political asylum. My English was limited when we arrived, but thanks to the transformative power of education, I found amazing opportunities in my new home. Every student in Rhode Island deserves the resources they need to thrive, and that includes our growing multilingual learner population. Additionally, our families and multilingual educators deserve the support they need to effectively help these students grow and achieve success.”


Chairwoman Cano highlighted several legislative proposals she is sponsoring this session to support multilingual learners and invest in English language development, including:

  • The Bill of Rights for Multilingual Learners Act (2024-S 2842), which would require the Council on Elementary & Secondary Education to draft a written bill of rights for parents or guardians of students who are multilingual learners that safeguard and protect the rights of multilingual learners in public schools.
  • The Support and Access to Bilingual Education Act (2024-S 2917), which would create a dual language program within RIDE that would, conditional on funding, provide grants to schools and districts that establish dual language programs. Additional funding could come from the state, charitable contributions or other sources.
  • The Bilingual, Dual Language and World Language Teacher Investment Act (2024-S 2845), which would establish a program to expand the issuance of teaching certificates to bilingual, dual language and world language teachers in urban and urban ring schools and create a scholarship program to attract more teachers who speak multiple languages.


“Multilingual learning has been a priority for the Senate,” said Chairwoman Cano. “We have prioritized investments in multilingual education, and we must continue to build on the progress we have made. I am grateful to the chamber’s leadership and many of my colleagues who have been supportive of our work on this issue.”


She continued: “Learning a new language can open a world of opportunities, from jobs to travel to just thinking about the world in new ways. By investing in bilingual education and multilingual educators, we will promote both efficiency and educational equity for the children of our state while ensuring they are ready to compete in the 21st century economy.”



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