Lawmakers recommend continuing to fund Utah’s dual language immersion program

Jan 25, 2024, 1:37 PM

Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, R-South Jordan, asks a question about SB87 Motor Vehicle Rental Tax Amendmen...

Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, R-South Jordan, asks a question about SB87 Motor Vehicle Rental Tax Amendments during a Senate Revenue and Taxation Standing Committee meeting in the Senate Building in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A legislative committee is recommending no change to how Utah’s dual language immersion program is funded.

During a meeting Thursday of the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee, the chairs announced they recommend retaining the roughly $7.3 million funding for the program that allows students to learn languages such as Chinese, French, German, Spanish and Russian.

This comes after former state Sen. Howard Stephenson, the original sponsor of the dual language immersion program, or DLI, had warned lawmakers were considering defunding it by reallocating the money in a way that would “decimate the DLI program as we know it.”

In a recent op-ed in the Deseret News, Stephenson argued the “world-renowned” program helps students prepare for a global economy and raises their achievements in other subjects. DLI students spend half their day learning in English, with the other half spent learning in their immersion language.

Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, R-South Jordan and committee co-chair, pushed back against the notion that the program was ever in jeopardy.

“There was never an effort to end the funding,” Fillmore told KSL TV. “It was simply selected for study so we could examine the program. It happens to every program.”

Rep. Norm Thurston, R-Provo, the committee’s vice chair, echoed that.

“The only people who would cancel or defund the DLI program would be the school districts,” Thurston said.

While the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee recommends no change in DLI program funding, it also recommends continuing to study the program “on the ongoing purpose and goals for the state incentive funding.”

Fillmore added it will ultimately be up to the state’s Executive Appropriations Committee to determine the exact allocation for dual language immersion as the state budget is finalized over the remaining weeks of the legislative session.

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Lawmakers recommend continuing to fund Utah’s dual language immersion program