ALBANY, N.Y. February 22, 2016 — The Educational Conference Board, a coalition of major statewide education organizations, today called for the creation of a new, dedicated state aid category for English Language Learners and recommended that the Legislature provide $75 million in funding next year.
In a new policy paper, ECB also urged the Legislature to adjust funding streams for BOCES aid and Special Services Aid to help offset new costs associated with providing services to New York’s rapidly growing ELL population. And, to help address shortages of bilingual teachers, the statewide education groups unanimously recommended policy or statutory changes that would provide school districts with needed flexibility in assigning teachers to work with ELL students, as well as “fast-track options” in teacher prep programs that provide new pathways to certification for bilingual education teachers.
ECB Chairman John Yagielski said the recommendations should be acted upon in the state budget to ensure that school districts can continue to help students for whom English is not their first language succeed in the classroom.
“Multi-lingual students add to the rich tapestry of our society and reflect the global village in which we all live,” he said. “School districts already facing fiscal, staffing and programmatic challenges need additional funding and policy adjustments to ensure these students are successful.”
ECB said New York’s public schools now educate more than 213,000 ELL students — the fourth-highest number in the nation. While 61 percent of ELL students attend schools in New York City, districts such as Brentwood and Hempstead on Long Island, as well as Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Utica in upstate New York, also educate thousands of ELL students. New York’s public schools are also educating about 8,200 unaccompanied minors, with about half centered on Long Island, ECB reported.
Creating a new aid category and seeding it with $75 million for 2016-17 would allow these already fiscally strapped school districts to ensure that immigrant students have access to research-based programming and services to allow them to succeed, Yagielski said.
“School districts embrace the opportunity to serve ELL students. It is a moral imperative that districts do everything they can to support these children,” Yagielski said. “With New York’s improved fiscal condition, there is no reason for New York State not to step up and help school districts facing these challenges.”