Unfunded Mandates Problematic For Pss

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I've read with interest the articles printed in the Roundup on the effects the implementation of the English Language Development (ELD) Model will have on Payson Unified School District. I thought I would provide a perspective on how implementation of this Model will affect a small, rural school -- specifically Pine Strawberry School (PSS).

PSS will have to find the funds from somewhere (property taxpayers?) in the amount of $71,462.01 to budget for and implement what is essentially a state imposed, unfunded mandate. Implementation costs or "incremental costs" as labeled by the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) for PSS include:

Additional Kindergarten

Teacher Salary $40,378.00

Teacher Benefits (includes retirement, Social Security, Unemployment Ins., Workers' Comp, Health Ins., etc):

$12,292.01

Travel Expenses

to Train Staff: $11,700.00

Substitute Teachers: $7,092.00

A short explanation of the implementation/incremental costs:

Why does PSS need to hire an additional kindergarten teacher? The ADE Task Force Implementation Model separated English Language Learner (ELL) kindergarten students from the rest of the student population, stating that ELL kindergarten students are to be provided ELD instruction by a dedicated teacher. The fact that PSS will have only one ELL kindergarten student next school year is irrelevant (one teacher for one student). The fact that that student is required, by statute, to receive four hours of daily ELD instruction is irrelevant, even though that technically means that the student will be isolated from his/her fellow kindergarten students. Whatever happened to social integration?

Travel expenses include travel to/from a training site and the cost of overnight accommodations for six nights for all of PSS teachers (13) to attend a mandatory seven-day ELD implementation workshop. The fact that all PSS teachers hold an English as a Second Language (ESL) or Structure English Immersion (SEI) endorsement is also irrelevant...according to the ADE implementation model. One can't help but wonder what else is to be offered at the ELD workshop that was not offered during the 24 college credit-hour ESL endorsement program or the 90 contact-hour SEI endorsement program. It would imply that the time and money expended by teachers to earn the ESL or SEI endorsement was for nothing.

All PSS teachers must attend the seven-day workshop because PSS has fewer than 16 ELL students enrolled. As such, a new instructional program labeled the Individual Language Learners Program (ILLP) must be developed for each PSS ELL student. An ILLP is very much like an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) developed for every special needs student, except the ILLP addresses ELL issues. It is conceivable that a teacher may have a special needs student that is also an ELL student, requiring the teacher to implement an IEP and ILLP for that student. Implementing an ILLP and an IEP increases the teacher's workload exponentially in an already high workload environment, especially since the teacher has a classroom full of other students that deserve the same level of educational opportunities as the ELL student. Additionally, all teachers must attend the seven-day workshop because every ELL student will eventually be in every PSS classroom. PSS only has one classroom per grade level.

Substitute teachers are required, but in very short supply, because the seven-day workshop encompasses a full week of classes. PSS will have to hire a substitute teacher for each regular teacher attending the workshop.

As of this writing, PSS has 4 ELL students enrolled out of a total student enrollment of 147 students. ELL students represent 2.7% of the total student population but will require an exorbitant amount of time, effort and expense to comply with the law. Failure to comply with the mandate is not an option. Sanctions that may be imposed by ADE for noncompliance could financially cripple the school.

Please understand, it is PSS' sincere desire and goal to provide every PSS student with the absolute best education possible. Unfortunately, unfunded mandates detract from that goal.

Michael Clark

Superintendent, Pine Strawberry Elementary School District #12

Mike Clark is the superintendent and principal of Pine Strawberry Elementary School. The school serves 147 kindergarten through eighth-grade students at this time.

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