Feds Stress “Supplement Not Supplant” with Title III

By Mary Ann Zehr — October 09, 2008 1 min read
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The federal government has sent to chief state school officers a letter reiterating that federal funds targeted for English-language learners may not be used to replace local, state, or other federal money that otherwise would be spent on such students. The Oct. 2 letter says that U.S. Department of Education officials encountered some “state and local practices” while monitoring programs for English-language learners that suggested a need for clarification.

With the letter, the Education Department issued new guidance regarding the “supplement not supplant” provision of Title III of the No Child Left Behind Act, which authorizes funding for English-language-acquisition programs. The guidance says that some states have interpreted the provision as not applying to state funds used for statewide activities such as professional development or planning and evaluation. In fact, the provision does apply to those state funds, it says. The guidance says the funds may not be used to pay for the development of English-language-proficiency tests or for administering such tests. It further spells out that schools or school districts may not reduce state and local funds spent for language-acquisition programs based on how much Title III money they will get.

The Mexican American Educational and Legal Defense Fund responded to the directive from the Education Department by sending its own letter to chief state school officers in states with large populations of ELLs calling for everyone to comply with the guidance.

Peter Zamora, the Washington regional counsel for MALDEF, told me in a telephone interview today that he’s heard people in the field say that the supplanting of other funds for ELLs by Title III funds is widespread. “Even though Congress has provided $700 million dollars [for Title III], many of the funds aren’t reaching the students for whom they are intended,” he said.

If states really are spending a lot of Title III funds on such efforts as developing English-language-proficiency tests or administering them, that’s a whole lot of money that isn’t being used for directly helping students acquire English.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.