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Archive for Thursday, September 9, 2004

Funding for bilingual education in dispute

September 9, 2004

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— The state needs to spend more money on bilingual education, school officials told legislators Wednesday, but the educators differed on how much more.

They told the Select Joint Committee on School Finance that schools struggled to help a growing number of students who don't speak English well, with limited resources preventing them from reaching all students or providing enough services to those children.

During the 2003-04 school year, the state spent about $17.4 million on bilingual education programs for about 24,700 students. Educators said services often cost much more and forced their districts to divert funds from other programs.

But their figures for how much the state should increase its funding ranged from 40 percent, from the Kansas City, Kan., district, to 275 percent, from Wichita officials.

The committee is reviewing education funding and how the state distributes the $2.7 billion to its 301 school districts.

"I think they clearly need more money," said Sen. John Vratil, R-Leawood, a committee member. "The question is how much. There's no uniform opinion."

Officials in Wichita based their proposal on what the district spent providing services last year to about 5,500 students in bilingual programs.

The state provided $2.3 million, but the district spent $5.1 million. Lobbyist Diane Gjerstad said the district estimated it needed $10 million or so to have one English-as-a-second-language teacher for every 50 elementary students.

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