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Birth Control Debate in Senate; Why Long-Term Unemployment Is At Record Levels; Foreign Language Study in JCPS: Today on Here and Now

1:06pm: Access to contraception was debated in the Senate Thursday, and Senators voted down a measure that would have let insurance plans and employers, not just at religious institutions, refuse to cover health services that violate their religious beliefs or morals. The measure was sponsored by Republicans Roy Blunt of Missouri and Marco Rubio of Florida. It would have let insurance plans and employers refuse to cover health services that violate their religious beliefs or morals. We’ll talk about the political repercussions.

1:12pm: Why can’t people who have been unemployed for more than six months find jobs? Analysts say the number of people who have been long term unemployed hasn’t been this high since the Great Depression. Those on the political right might say it’s because they’ve become dependent on unemployment benefits, and those on the left might say it’s because their skills are outdated and they need training. According to some new research, it’s neither. Heidi Shierholz, economist at the Economic Policy Institute says the reason is simpler: there are just no jobs.

1:35pm: When they’re at home, many Jefferson County Public Schools students speak a language other than English—more than 100 different languages across the city. But the school district only teaches six, and one of them is Latin. Kentucky has made small gains to encourage students to study foreign languages, but much of that the work has been overshadowed by changing assessment standards for other subjects. WFPL’s Devin Katayama has more on the present and future of foreign language study in Kentucky.

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World Language in Kentucky Public Schools Delayed

World language will, eventually, become part of the state’s new accountability system. But for now the Kentucky Board of Education has decided to put off its implementation for two years.

Program reviews were created and implemented this year and will be used the following year to assess how certain subjects and content are being taught throughout Kentucky. But lawmakers say foreign language shouldn’t be considered among core content and some superintendents say it’ll be difficult to implement language programs at a time with so many changing assessments. The board says learning another language will be important in the near future and starting early is best.

“Basically what the board is saying, if we’re really going to be focused on 21st century learning and we’re really going to have our students prepare to compete in a global society, they need to be fluent in another language,” said Starr Lewis, school and district liaison for the University of Louisville’s College of Education.

Lewis attended the board’s meeting and said there were compelling arguments for both sides. At one point a girl spoke to the board in Spanish and then translated her testimony in English, said Lewis.

The board says it’ll now wait for the 2014-2015 school year for schools to be assessed on how they teach foreign language, at which point all classes beginning in kindergarten, will start teaching language in some capacity.

Some public schools already have foreign language programs in place and there are several ways to teach language to students, said Thomas Sauer who is on Kentucky’s world language program review committee. Sauer is also the world language specialist with Jefferson County Public Schools.

“A program doesn’t necessarily mean having a teacher in the classroom,” Sauer said. “It could mean lots of things. Could be a video, could be taking advantage of a social networking sites. There are lots of social networking programs where students can connect with other speakers of the language to learn the language,” he said.

If the state’s program review is based on students’ proficiency, these alternatives should satisfy the requirement, he said.