Oregon Cuts Off ELL Funds to Portland District

By Mary Ann Zehr — December 10, 2009 1 min read
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Dec. 11 clarification: Jake Weigler, the communications director of the Oregon Department of Education, expressed concern in an e-mail to me that the headline for this post and the post itself may give readers the impression that the funding has been halted permanently. He says the funding has been suspended until the district’s programs are brought into compliance, and the department is giving technical assistance for that.

Original post: The Oregon education department has cut off federal funds for English-language learners to the Portland public schools because it deems the district’s programs for such students to be out of compliance with federal law, reports an article in The Oregonian. That’s a loss to the district of more than $600,000 per year.

Explore the links in the article and you’ll see this money is from Title III of the No Child Left Behind Act, which authorizes funding specifically for English-acquisition programs. In a decade of reporting on ELLs for EdWeek, I’ve never heard of a state department of education withholding Title III funds from a district.

The article also notes that a report released this week says that after five or more years in special programs to learn English, 75 percent of ELLs in the state are not yet proficient. That finding is along the lines of what the Thomas Rivera Policy Institute reported about Los Angeles schools last month. The institute found that 29 percent of ELLs in L.A. weren’t reclassified as fluent in English by the 8th grade.

Betsy Hammond of The Oregonian writes in-depth about the education of ELLs more than many education reporters at mainstream newspapers. Earlier this week, she wrote about how the Oregon board of education approved a policy that some ELLs who meet certain criteria can get a high school diploma with intermediate English skills. They don’t have to test as fluent to graduate.

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