New York State: $3.6 billion needed to fully fund English Language Learners, study finds

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Fri Nov 14 16:00:30 UTC 2008

$3.6 billion to fully fund English Language Learners, study finds
by Kelly Vaughan

Students who are still learning English need twice as much funding as
other students, says a policy brief released yesterday by the New York
Immigration Coalition. The brief was based on a new, as-yet-unreleased
study the Coalition commissioned from research and advocacy
organization Multicultural Education, Training, and Advocacy, Inc.
(META). At present, funding for English Language Learners (ELLs) is
approximately 1.5 times that of regular education students.

While the brief does not say how much additional funding the state
should provide per pupil, EdWeek blogger Mary Ann Zehr estimated it at
about $6,500 more for each ELL student than what is spent today.
Adding that much per student would be expensive. The study calculates
that New York State would have to spend a total of $3.64 billion on
ELLs, about 17% of total state aid to schools.

This sounds like a lot given looming state budget cuts, but the
brief's authors say it's reasonable. "Given that ELLs make up 13% of
the total student population and have one of the highest dropout rates
in New York, the ELL Costing Out Study provides a sensible estimate of
what it will take to provide ELLs with the adequate education they
need and deserve," they conclude. The extra costs were calculated from
a run-down of successful programs for teaching English Language
Learners, such as class-size reduction, intensive coaching for
teachers, and expanding pre-K and full-day kindergarten.

According to the policy brief, the META study was commissioned to
correct inadequacies in earlier studies of the cost of educating all
students in New York State, which were used as evidence in the
Campaign for Fiscal Equity's lawsuit challenging the legality of state
funding formulas. Those studies included the needs of ELLs within the
needs of all students in poverty, rather than looking at their needs
separately, as they did for students with special needs. As a result,
they underestimated the additional resources required to educate ELLs,
the authors say.

Finally, as Zehr pointed out in her post, the brief's authors question
whether funding allocated to ELLs actually reaches them and emphasize
the need for better monitoring of how funding is used. Similar
concerns were raised this summer by ELL advocates at public hearings
on the city's Contracts For Excellence plan.
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