ALBANY, N.Y. Dec. 5, 2016 - New York State United Teachers today called on the state to create a new state aid category and fund it with at least $200 million as a way to provide increased support to its growing number of English Language Learners.
NYSUT President Karen E. Magee said New York's 218,000 ELL students need additional resources that school districts, straining under the burden of the tax cap, are unable to provide. She said the union's position reflects the importance of fully serving all ELL students.
In testimony to the Assembly Education Committee, NYSUT called for the separate ELL aid category to be included in the 2017-18 budget, saying this new supplemental operating aid formula is needed to "help bridge the gap until the state can fully fund Foundation Aid."
NYSUT noted the number of ELL students increased 22 percent from 2008-09 to the current school year. NYSUT stressed that, while most ELLs are located in large urban districts, 5,700 attend school in Brentwood on Long Island; Utica reports 1,900 ELL students and Albany has more than 1,100 ELLs. In fact, 65 percent of all school districts report having ELLs, including suburban districts like Kenmore, with 230, and North Rockland, which has almost 1,000.
NYSUT Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta and Vice President Catalina Fortino testified that the union supports Regents' regulations that require school districts to provide more comprehensive base services to ELL students in order to ensure they receive the best education possible. However, NYSUT added that local school districts are, in many cases, unable to meet the Regents' requirements because of budget constraints.
NYSUT testified, "The vast majority of ELL students reside in low-wealth/ high-need school districts which lack the local capacity to raise significant additional dollars to implement these regulations — even before the restrictions of the tax cap are taken into account. As a result, it falls on the state to provide additional resources to school districts with large ELL populations and those with growing ELL enrollments."
NYSUT said the creation of a new aid formula for ELLs "will afford school districts the ability to meet the needs of this growing population which go beyond learning the English language."
New York State United Teachers is a statewide union with more than 600,000 members in education, human services and health care. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.