States Must Stop Misuse Of Federal Education

MALDEF seeks actions by key states following favorable U.S. Department of Education directive

October 09, 2008

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, following the issuance of a U.S. Department of Education directive against the misuse of federal education funds for English Language Learners (ELLs), the Mexican American Legal Defense & Educational Fund (MALDEF) demanded that state and local education agencies end funding practices that limit academic opportunities for ELLs. On Thursday, October 2nd, the Department issued a letter and guidance to states (see attached) noting that federal education funds provided under Title III of the No Child Left Behind Act must "supplement, not supplant" state and local funds or other federal funds provided for ELL educational programs and services.

“Many states and school districts have ignored federal law in replacing state, local or other federal funds with Title III funds for English Language Learners,” stated John Trasviña, MALDEF President and General Counsel. “This is illegal, and it severely limits academic opportunities for many ELLs. MALDEF urged the federal Department of Education to act on this issue, and we now join Secretary Spellings in demanding that education agencies supplement, not supplant, state and local dollars with federal funds to provide an appropriate education for ELLs.”

“Although Congress has appropriated over $700 million in annual funding for students under Title III of the No Child Left Behind Act, many of these dollars have not actually been used to improve educational services for ELLs,” noted Peter Zamora, MALDEF Washington, D.C. Regional Counsel. “Arizona, for example, recently passed a funding plan that required schools to reduce state and local expenditures by the amount of federal dollars that they receive for English Language Learners. This both violates federal law and denies English Language Learners the benefit of a sound education.”

“We commend Secretary Spellings for acting to halt funding practices that limit academic opportunities for English Language Learners,” concluded Mr. Trasviña. “MALDEF today joins with the Department in calling on states, districts and schools to review their spending practices and act quickly to make sure that federal funds add to, rather than replace, state and local funds for English Language Learners.”

Today, MALDEF wrote the education superintendents of key states serving large numbers of Latino students, including California, Texas, Georgia, Illinois and Arizona. (See attached). These letters call on superintendents to follow the Department of Education’s guidelines regarding their spending practices at the state and local level and ensure that they allocate federal funds for English Language Learner students appropriately.

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