Money Woes Stall N.Y.C.'s Changes To English-Language Programs

By Mary Ann Zehr — December 05, 2001 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The New York City school system’s plan to make changes in its programs for English-language learners, an issue that ignited fierce debate in a district with one of the largest immigrant populations in the nation, has slowed significantly because system officials don’t have the money to implement the changes.

“We’re working with existing funds. There isn’t any money in the city, period,” said Edna R. Vega, the superintendent for the school system’s English-language- learner office, who was hired in March to implement the plan. “It’s a slower process for us because we don’t have the money.”

After months of delicate negotiations, the city’s board of education approved a seven-point plan last February to improve English-acquisition programs. The plan largely followed the recommendations of Schools Chancellor Harold O. Levy. (“New York City Modifies Bilingual Education,” Jan. 17, 2001.)

Mr. Levy had estimated the cost of the changes would be $75 million. But since then, the city government has been forced to cut budgets because of the worsening economy and the impact of the Sept. 11 terrorism. With the exception of some short-term funds provided by the city for Saturday English classes last spring, the 1.1 million-student district has not received any new money to carry out the plan for English-language learners.

Luis O. Reyes, an assistant professor of education at Brooklyn College, who was a participant in a coalition that fought to keep bilingual education as an option, said last week that “next to nothing” has happened with the planned changes.

“All the pieces that are in the chancellor’s plan have gone begging,” he said.

Four Options

Making four distinct types of programs available to the school system’s 155,000 English-language learners was the plan’s centerpiece. Currently, most New York schools provide only two options: bilingual education—in which students receive instruction in their native languages while they are learning English—and English as a second language, in which students are given special help primarily in English.

The plan calls for a new option to be added, “accelerated academic English"—a one-year, self-contained program in which students are taught core subjects in rudimentary English. It also calls for the expansion of the school system’s efforts to provide two-way bilingual education programs, in which native English-speakers and students with another native language are taught in both languages in the same classroom.

The plan recommends that schools explain each option to parents and let them select one. That recommendation was expected to reverse the school district’s practice of assigning some students to bilingual education and giving parents the opportunity to pull them out only after the fact.

To date, the school system has created 40 new classrooms of accelerated academic English in grades 4-9. Schools, however, had to come up with their own money for the changes—with the exception of teacher training, which Ms. Vega’s office subsidized with a grant from the federal government.

In addition, using existing state and federal funds, the district has expanded the number of two-way bilingual education programs from 63 to 77.

The district this past summer also produced a video in nine languages explaining the four program options that the school system hopes will some day be widely available.

“I’m distressed and depressed,” Mr. Reyes said about the lagging implementation of the plan. “At a time when there was hope that even the political compromise that the chancellor made would do some good, in fact there have been no resources.”

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the December 05, 2001 edition of Education Week as Money Woes Stall N.Y.C.'s Changes To English-Language Programs


Classroom Technology Webinar How Pandemic Tech Is (and Is Not) Transforming K-12 Schools
The COVID-19 pandemic—and the resulting rise in virtual learning and big investments in digital learning tools— helped educators propel their technology skills to the next level. Teachers have become more adept at using learning management
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Building Teacher Capacity for Social-Emotional Learning
Set goals that support adult well-being and social-emotional learning: register today!

Content provided by Panorama
Jobs October 2021 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal 'A Snitch Line on Parents.' GOP Reps Grill AG Over Response to Threats on School Officials
Attorney General Merrick Garland said his effort is meant to address violent threats against school boards, not to stifle parents' dissent.
5 min read
LEFT: Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks during a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing of the Department of Justice on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021. RIGHT: Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, questions Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Attorney General Merrick Garland, left, speaks during a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing of the U.S. Department of Justice on Capitol Hill on Thursday, questioned by Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, right, among others.
Greg Nash via AP, Andrew Harnik/AP
Federal School Boards, 'Domestic Terrorism,' and Free Speech: Inside the Debate
From critical race theory to COVID policy, the heat on schools has raised issues involving free speech and the safety of public officials.
13 min read
Brenda Stephens, a school board member with Orange County Public Schools in Hillsborough, N.C. has purchased a weapon and taken a concealed carry class over concerns for her personal safety.
Brenda Stephens, a school board member in Hillsborough, N.C., says board members face threats and bullying, an atmosphere far different from what she's encountered in years of board service.
Kate Medley for Education Week
Federal Senate Confirms Catherine Lhamon to Civil Rights Post; Kamala Harris Casts Decisive Vote
Joe Biden's controversial pick to lead the Education Department's office for civil rights held that job in the Obama administration.
2 min read
Catherine Lhamon, nominee to be assistant secretary for civil rights at the Department of Education, testifies during a Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee confirmation hearing in Dirksen Building on Tuesday, July 13, 2021.
Catherine Lhamon, then-nominee to be assistant secretary for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Education, testifies during a Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee confirmation hearing in July.
Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images
Federal White House Outlines COVID-19 Vaccination Plans for Kids 5-11
The Biden administration will rely on schools, pharmacies, and pediatricians to help deliver the COVID-19 shots to younger children.
3 min read
Ticket number 937 sits on a COVID-19 vaccination at the drive-thru vaccination site in the Coweta County Fairgrounds on Jan. 14, 2021, in Newnan, Ga.
A ticket number sits on a COVID-19 vaccination at the drive-thru vaccination site in the Coweta County Fairgrounds in Newnan, Ga.
Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP