Federal

Language Programs in City Schools Garner Bigger Share of Federal Aid

By Mary Ann Zehr — October 26, 2004 4 min read
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Large urban school districts are receiving a bigger share of federal money targeted for English-language learners than they did before the No Child Left Behind Act went into effect, according to the Council of the Great City Schools.

Most of 47 urban districts that responded to a survey by the Washington-based council early this year reported that in each of the past two school years, they had received more funding under Title III of the No Child Left Behind Act, which provides money for English-language-acquisition programs, than they did through Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

“Title III of No Child Left Behind: A Status Report From the Great City Schools,” is posted by the Council of the Great City Schools. ()

Title VII was replaced by Title III of the No Child Left Behind law, an overhaul of the ESEA enacted nearly three years ago.

The proportion of funds for English-language learners that is going to large urban districts also expanded.

Those same 47 urban districts, which are members of the council, an advocacy group representing 64 districts, reported that in fiscal 2001, they received 8.8 percent of the money appropriated through Title VII of the ESEA. By contrast, in fiscal 2002, they received 17 percent of Title III funds. In fiscal 2003, their share was 18.9 percent, or more than double what they’d gotten before the No Child Left Behind Act was implemented.

President Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act into law in January 2002.

The expansion in federal financing to help urban districts serve English-language learners results from an increase in appropriations for such students and a change in how the money is distributed, according to the report of the survey results, which was released last week.

Before the No Child Left Behind Act, schools or school districts received money for English-language learners through a competitive-grant process. Under the law, local districts now receive such funds as formula grants, based on the number of English-language learners they enroll.

For fiscal 2001, the federal government appropriated $610 million for Title VII, while for fiscal 2002, it appropriated $665 million for Title III. In 2003, the amount for Title III was increased by another $20 million.

The Los Angeles Unified School District received a hike in funding for English-language learners with the No Child Left Behind law, said Rita Caldera, the director of the language-acquisition branch for the 750,000-student district.

Formula Grants

Los Angeles schools received about $11 million under Title VII. Under Title III, however, the district was granted $23 million for each of the past two school years. This school year, the Los Angeles district, which has 326,000 English-language learners, expects to receive $26 million in Title III funds, according to Ms. Caldera.

Title III Support

The following 10 school districts received the most funds (in millions) under the program in the past two academic years.

District 2003-04 2002-03
New York City $26.0 $23.0
Los Angeles 23.0 23.0
Chicago 11.6 7.1
Miami-Dade County 7.9 7.7
Houston 6.2 5.5
Dallas 5.4 5.1
Broward County, Fla. 4.1 4.5
San Diego 3.1 2.8
Clark County, Nev. 2.9 2.4
Philadelphia 2.8 2.6

Ms. Caldera believes that the change to formula grants rather than competitive grants benefits her district. Because the funding is now channeled through the central office of the district and is for all English-language learners, the district has been able to draw up an action plan for all English-language learners.

“We are implementing professional development for all the teachers across our district,” Ms. Caldera said. “It was something we weren’t able to do before.”

Glynis Terrell, who coordinates programs for English-language learners in the Atlanta public schools, said her district received a little less for each of the past two school years than it had under Title VII. This school year, though, the district expects to receive $320,000, a hike over the $200,000 it received under Title VII in the 2001-02 school year.

About 1,300 of the 51,000 students in Atlanta public schools are English-language learners.

Ms. Terrell views Title III as an improvement over Title VII because the current program spells out new requirements for districts to serve English-language learners and parents. For instance, she said, Title III mandates that districts provide professional development for teachers.

James Crawford, the executive director of the Washington-based National Association for Bilingual Education, said English-language learners are definitely getting more attention in school districts under the No Child Left Behind Act than they did previously.

“My question,” he said, “is whether that attention is beneficial. It could not be beneficial if a lot of programs are dismantled because of these arbitrary achievement targets under the No Child Left Behind Act.”

Under the federal law, schools could for the first time face sanctions for failing to raise the achievement levels of English-language learners.

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