A quarter of California’s public school students are English learners who are entitled by state and federal law to receive instructional support to become English proficient. This educational opportunity, however, has been denied to more than 20,000 of the English learner students who attend our state’s schools.
When English learner students receive no language services, they are forced to sit in classrooms where they comprehend less of the instruction. Denied access to the core curriculum that is afforded to their English proficient classmates, English leaner students have to repeat grade levels and a disproportionate number of them eventually drop out.
Based upon a proposal by Michael Kirst, Alan Bersin and Goodwin Liu, the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) provides local school officials with increased funding generally, and additional grants for students with greater needs, such as English Learners.
Kirst argued that:
[B]ecause not all students come to school with the same individual, family or neighborhood advantages, some need more resources than others to meet a given achievement standard. In allocating education dollars, the finance system should systematically account for differing student needs.Governor Jerry Brown’s recent signing of the LCFF takes an important step towards providing local school districts with additional funding to meet the needs of English learners. But it falls short of ensuring that districts will provide required instructional services.
In a state ranked 49th in education spending, we still have a long climb ahead of us to reach a point where we appropriately support our public school children, but the LCFF takes a step in the right direction by recognizing the fundamental truth in State Board President Kirst’s argument and restructuring our state’s education finance system around that principle. The promise of LCFF will be hollow, however, if we can’t ensure that English learners receive even the most basic required instructional services.
If California is serious about ensuring that the new supplemental and concentration funds actually benefit English learners, the logical first step would be to commit to addressing the reports it has received from hundreds of districts regarding English learners being denied required English language instructional services. Districts receive state and federal funding to serve these children, yet year after year districts report denying tens of thousands of English learners required services. The state is responsible under our State Constitution for ensuring equal educational opportunity, yet it provides no consequence for or response to these reports, other than making the information available on the Internet.
Until California adopts accountability measures that ensure the delivery of services, and acknowledges that it must act when local districts report that students received “no services,” we risk allowing the state to continue to deny thousands of English learners access to basic educational opportunity.
Jessica Price is Staff Attorney at the ACLU of Southern California