Original URL: http://news.statesmanjournal.com/article.cfm?i=67038

Schools failing grade blamed on misspending
Hispanic advocates say money intended to help non-English speakers is allocated poorly.
The Associated Press
August 31, 2003


WOODBURN — Many Oregon schools with a high percentage of Hispanic students received an “F” recently on a federal report card of education standards, intensifying the debate about the use of state funds for non-English speakers.

“This gives every Latino a black eye,” said Miguel Salinas, president of Hispanic Education Advocacy Resource Team. “The districts should be ashamed. Extra money goes to the schools, but not the kids.”

School districts around the state receive extra money for every student learning English as a second language.

Rather than being spent on the non-English speakers, Salinas said, the money often goes to other purposes, leaving students without needed help.

As an example, he points to Woodburn, where all seven schools in the predominantly Hispanic district failed to meet a handful of the 60 yearly progress benchmarks set by the federal No Child Left Behind act.

In the data released last week, Hispanics in 67 schools didn’t meet the standards for reading, writing and math.

Since the early 1990s, the state education funding formula has given 50 percent more money to districts for every student designated an English-language learner. In the 2001-02 school year, Oregon sent school districts about $5,000 per student, then an extra $2,500 for every student learning English.

The law doesn’t require that the money be spent on bilingual or English-language programs, but Hispanic advocates say it should be. School officials insist that the money goes to targeted students, often in the form of supplies or bilingual teachers.

Walt Blomberg, Woodburn superintendent, said much money is used on classroom materials for non-native English speakers.

The low tests scores are the result of forcing immigrant students to take the same exams in English as everyone else, even if they’ve only been in the country a year, Blomberg said.

“The federal law is asking us to buy into something that doesn’t make sense,” he said.

A breakdown of a handful of school districts with high Hispanic populations shows an apparent gap between extra money allocated for English-language learners — $2,500 extra per student in 2001-02 — and money spent on their programs.

According to Education Department figures, the Salem-Keizer School District spent $5.14 million in 2001-02 on bilingual and English-language programs for foreign students, or $937 per child.

At Woodburn High School, with the largest percentage of non-English speakers in the state, $307,206 was spent in 2002-03 on English-language programs for approximately 700 students, or about $439 per student. That’s only about 20 percent of the money the school received for those students.

Laura Lanka, principal of Woodburn High School, said those numbers are misleading because the school spends a lot of money on teachers and materials for English learners that are not calculated in formal programs.

Eduardo Angulo, chairman of the Salem/Keizer Coalition for Equality, a Hispanic advocacy group, spent much of this record-long Legislative session pushing Senate Bill 897, which would have forced the Oregon Department of Education to do a study about how the extra money is spent statewide.

The bill passed the Senate Education Committee but got stuck in the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee. It was still there as the Legislature ground to a halt Wednesday.

No Child Left Behind timeline

Fall 2003: Schools that are in “needs improvement” status for two consecutive years must begin offering school choice to families. There are 14 such schools in Oregon; none are in the Salem-Keizer School District.

2005-06: Annual statewide assessments for reading and math in grades 3-8 must be in place. By the end of the year, all teachers in core academic subjects must meet requirements to be highly qualified. All teaching assistants in Title One schools must be highly qualified.

2013-14: All students must reach proficiency in math, reading and science.