Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Joint Education Policy Meeting on English Language Learners.  The House and Senate Education Policy Committees held a joint hearing on English Language Learning programs this afternoon and it was an illuminating meeting.  Among the groups making presentations were the St. Paul School District, the Bloomington School District, the University of Minnesota, and the Minnesota Department of Education.  The number of non-English speaking students has grown dramatically over the past two decades as has the number of native languages.  This poses a number of challenges for schools, especially if the children are not proficient in their native language.  To address this problem, a number of school districts are putting together very comprehensive family literacy programs and other strategies to help these students overcome their language barriers and succeed academically.

From my vantage point, I have always believed that the formula that provides resources for English Language Learners is: (1) the most transparent formula in the vast array of education funding formulas, and (2) woefully underfunded.  While the panel that developed funding recommendations proposed lengthening the eligibility to receive revenue from five years to seven years, it did not suggest that additional resources be dedicated to the base formula.  Hopefully, the Legislature will take a look at increasing this formula at some juncture.  This is the most transparent of the all the compensatory-related formulas as it meets a student "where they are" and funds them to a point of proficiency.  Lengthening the eligibility would help these learners, but more resources are needed to help school districts provide these crucial services.  The presentations today helped outline the challenge and possible programmatic solutions.

Thanks to the Princeton School Board.  I want to thank the Princeton School Board for having me out to give a short presentation this evening.  Even with the Legislative Session just around the corner, I still enjoy getting to member districts to meet boards and administrators on their home turf.  Thanks again for your support of SEE's mission!

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