DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A national report has found that Iowa is lagging behind much of the U.S. in foreign language instruction for K-12 students.

The study, conducted by the American Councils for International Education and the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, found that slightly more than 15 percent of Iowa's K-12 students were enrolled in a foreign language course for the 2014-15 academic year, The Des Moines Register ( ) reported. Iowa ranked 35th out of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., for foreign language instruction.

Larger school districts can typically offer more foreign language options, which creates a rural-urban divide, said Jason Noble, president of the Iowa World Language Association.

Schools in Des Moines offer seven language courses for high school students. Teens in rural areas often have to enroll in online courses or at community colleges if they wish to learn another language.

Teacher shortages and budget issues have forced some Iowa school districts to cut programs in recent years. West Des Moines Community Schools stopped its Japanese program and cut back on Spanish elementary school classes because of budget shortfalls in 2015.

It's rare for elementary schools in the state to offer language instruction, said Stefanie Wager, a consultant with the Iowa Department of Education. Middle school foreign language programs are often shorter introductory courses instead of full classes, she said.

Education advocates say they hope to add a special seal onto the high school diplomas of students who learn a foreign language in order to raise the prestige and spark interest.

The Seal of Biliteracy has been adopted by 26 states and Washington, D.C. Students can earn the seal by taking a test that demonstrates their proficiency in another language. State lawmakers considered the seal during the past legislative session but didn't enact it into law.


Information from: The Des Moines Register,