No Solution For English Language Learner Expenses

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I wish I could report that the English Language Learner instruction funding dilemma has been satisfactorily resolved.

Unfortunately, this is far from the case. The following excerpt from the Arizona School Administrators' Association summarizes what has taken place and where school districts stand:

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Casey O'Brien

Tom Horne, Superintendent of Public Instruc-tion, released his department's estimate of the cost to implement the new English Language Learner Model, adopted by the Legislative Task Force. His statewide estimate is $40 million.

This number is significantly different from the estimated $304 million released by school district superintendents in late January.

Superintendents believe that the district-generated number more accurately reflects the actual increased cost of implementing the Task Force's model. The Department predetermined what expenses they would approve and the budget format disallowed a number of critical costs.

The disallowed costs included sufficient teachers, additional classrooms and associated costs, related course materials, teacher training and teacher aides. The problem with this uniform approach is it was established without regard for the diversity of needs among school districts.

The rigid application of an inflexible budget format creates significant inequities among school districts. For example, Mesa Public Schools would receive $160 per student for a total of $1.8 million, while Vail Unified School District would receive $3,689 per student for a total of $531,239.

How about Payson?

How much additional funding are we looking at to support implementation of the Department of Education's mandated program?

We get zero dollars. That's right. We fail to qualify for any additional funding. Yet the Department did acknowledge that we would need an additional four full-time teachers to implement their instructional model.

The means to provide these teachers, however, is generated by significantly raising our regular elementary class sizes. We make our classes large enough to "create" the required number of teachers to staff our English Language Development classrooms.

I believe it is imperative that we provide intensive English language instruction for non-English proficient students, however, this "solution" from the Department of Education is clearly punitive.

Payson has histrionically placed a priority on lower class sizes. Our teachers recognize the benefit of reaching more students when this is the case.

Our achievement results support that we have our priorities well placed. To mandate that we throw out what has worked to implement an experimental ELL Model is, at best, irresponsible.

If you support PUSD maintaining smaller class sizes, then I urge you to contact Payson's legislative representatives in Phoenix and encourage them to support a resolution to this very real problem that is equitable for all of Payson's students.

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