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Parlez-vous français? Habla español? High school students will have to answer "yes" to graduate if a bill making its way through Utah's Capitol becomes law.

Under SB219, sponsored by Draper Republican Sen. Howard Stephenson, students would be required to be proficient in a world language before graduating and would get special "bi-literacy" diplomas. Senate Education Committee members signed off on the bill Tuesday.

Stephenson said Utah is a national leader in dual immersion education, in which students speak a second language for half the day. His bill would take the state further in promoting language learning.

"If we're serious about being a world language state, I think we need to finally step up to that," he said.

But Laura Belnap, a member of the state school board, questioned whether lawmakers should be setting graduation requirements, a function typically reserved for the board of education. She also suggested that a world language requirement would force school districts to redistribute funds in order to invest in language education.

"We would have to at least double the number of foreign language teachers," she said. "What are we going to have to give up to provide that?"

Stephenson maintains his bill will not increase costs for schools because the same number of students would be taking the same number of required credits for graduation.

"We all have heard stories of the wasted senior year, and that is the case for many students," he said.

Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Saratoga Springs, spoke in favor of the bill. He said students benefit from world language skills after leaving high school.

"It's a big world out there and we need to prepare our students to go out," he said.

The bill now will go before the full Senate for consideration.