More than 160 organizations, including UnidosUS, TESOL, NABE, CAL, JNCL, the NEA, and the AFT are calling on the Senate and House Appropriations Subcommittees for Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies to include $2 billion in the Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) budget for Title III of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)—the federal formula grant program intended to support English learners (ELs) in every state and territory.
In a letter to the Committee chairs, the organizations claim that “The FY23 level of $890 million leaves schools with approximately $173 per EL in federal funding – an inadequate amount to support their needs. Even more concerning is that when adjusting for inflation, Title III funding has decreased by 9% since 2008.iii In FY08, Title III was funded at $700 million, which is roughly $978 million in 2023 when adjusted for inflation.”
The letter continues to claim that: “Years of underinvestment in Title III has had a disproportionate impact on students of color, low-income students, immigrant families, and students with disabilities,” and “The lack of adequate funding to support ELs has contributed to the persistence of wide opportunity gaps.”
According to the letter, funding Title III at this level would increase federal support for ELs to $400/per pupil, as well as provide resources in other key areas, including:
• $100 million to create a discretionary grant program for the development and adoption of native language assessments to leverage the full repertoire of linguistic, cultural, and cognitive resources that ELs bring to school and to better inform equitable and higher-level instruction.
• Support for more teachers to attain their English Language Development or Bilingual certification and professional development for teachers of ELs through the National Professional Development program within Title III.
• Culturally and linguistically responsive engagement with EL families.
• Community and family initiatives to support summer and after-school academic and social programs for English learners.
• Sustainable innovative programs that support bilingual and dual language education, and leverage the unique linguistic, cultural, and cognitive capital of ELs to promote higher levels of academic and socio-emotional outcomes.
Amalia Chamorro, director of the Education Policy Project at UnidosUS, explained, “Today, there are more than 5 million English Learners (ELs) enrolled in K-12 public schools, compromising 10% of the student population. Increasing funding for the main federal program that is dedicated to support English Learners would help to rectify years of underinvestment and provide for more equitable funding for one of the highest-need student populations. In order to address the unique needs of EL students in pandemic recovery, the growth in the EL population, and the high rate of inflation, UnidosUS and over 160 organization across the country call on Congress to make a bold and necessary investment and increase Title III from its current level of $890 million to $2 billion. Should Title III funding continue to fail to address the needs and recognize the multilingual and multicultural assets of English Learners, millions of students will continue to be denied a high-quality education and will be inhibited from reaching their potential and maximizing their contributions to the United States’ economy.”