Study: New York Should Spend Twice as Much on Each ELL as a Regular Student

By Mary Ann Zehr — November 13, 2008 2 min read
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Schools in New York state should receive an extra funding weight for English-language learners of about twice that of regular education students if ELLs are to get an adequate education, according to a cost study by Multicultural Education, Training & Advocacy, Inc. and commissioned by the New York Immigration Coalition. The study is summarized in a policy brief that was released yesterday.

Despite New York’s overall gains in graduation rates over the last four years, graduation rates for ELLs have decreased over that time, the study notes.

Currently, the additional funding weight for ELLs in New York beyond a regular student is about half what it should be, according to the study. It’s 1.5 compared to the 1.0 weight for a regular student. One particularly costly group of ELLs to educate are “students with interrupted formal education,” or SIFE. The study concludes that schools need to be spending $8,669 beyond what they spend for a regular student to provide an adequate education for a SIFE English-learner in high school.

The policy brief doesn’t state the actual per-pupil figure that New York should be spending on each ELL, but Roger L. Rice, the executive director of META, told me over the phone this morning that the full-length cost study says it should be between $11,730 and $11,998 on top of the $10,440 that is currently being spent on each regular student. Cost figures are based on 2006 costs, he says. So I extrapolate from those figures that the study is recommending that the state should change its funding weight so that it provides at least $6,500 more in basic per-pupil spending for each ELL than it does now.

The study contains recommendations for what the state can do to help improve the education of ELLs, ranging from expanding opportunities for schooling beyond the regular school day, expanding preK and full-day kindergarten programs, and reducing class sizes to a 15:1 student-teacher ratio. In addition, the study says that the state will have to significantly increase the number of certified and qualified ELL teachers if it wants to seriously commit to improving outcomes for ELLs.

One more note: the authors of the study say it’s not clear that the extra money channeled to ELLs through the existing weighted-funding program is actually being spent on those students. “It’s hard to see where they monitor that,” Mr. Rice told me today. The report says New York must strengthen its guidance and accountability to make sure ELL funds reach the students who they are intended to help.

The New York Immigration Coalition plans to release the full-length cost study soon. It seems to me to be a useful resource for policymakers in states such as Arizona that have had long-standing battles over what it costs to provide an adequate education for ELLs.

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