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Feds Stress "Supplement Not Supplant" with Title III


The federal government has sent to chief state school officers a letter reiterating that federal funds targeted for English-language learners may not be used to replace local, state, or other federal money that otherwise would be spent on such students. The Oct. 2 letter says that U.S. Department of Education officials encountered some "state and local practices" while monitoring programs for English-language learners that suggested a need for clarification.

With the letter, the Education Department issued new guidance regarding the "supplement not supplant" provision of Title III of the No Child Left Behind Act, which authorizes funding for English-language-acquisition programs. The guidance says that some states have interpreted the provision as not applying to state funds used for statewide activities such as professional development or planning and evaluation. In fact, the provision does apply to those state funds, it says. The guidance says the funds may not be used to pay for the development of English-language-proficiency tests or for administering such tests. It further spells out that schools or school districts may not reduce state and local funds spent for language-acquisition programs based on how much Title III money they will get.

The Mexican American Educational and Legal Defense Fund responded to the directive from the Education Department by sending its own letter to chief state school officers in states with large populations of ELLs calling for everyone to comply with the guidance.

Peter Zamora, the Washington regional counsel for MALDEF, told me in a telephone interview today that he's heard people in the field say that the supplanting of other funds for ELLs by Title III funds is widespread. "Even though Congress has provided $700 million dollars [for Title III], many of the funds aren’t reaching the students for whom they are intended," he said.

If states really are spending a lot of Title III funds on such efforts as developing English-language-proficiency tests or administering them, that's a whole lot of money that isn't being used for directly helping students acquire English.


Great news, but here's hoping they include some "teeth". As an untenured ESL teacher in 1998, I took on my school district in NC over the supplanting issue with regards to the use of state funds by local districts. The state had only recently begun to allot funding to districts for working with ELLs. It was a significant policy move, but LEAs took it as their moment to remove any funding they had directed towards hiring ESL teachers, professional development, etc.

After repeated calls to state accounting offices, legislators, and finally the local paper, I walked away withered from the effort. Here's hoping MALDEF and others can maintain some pressure and leverage broad support for monitoring the use of Title III funds. Regards, Greg

I agree with the above poster. Title III money is being used for Teacher Aides for two teachers instead of hiring more teachers to cover the number of students. It is not being used to badly needed items such as those state test study books and new computers, etc. I don't feel I have any say in what Title III is spent on but all of the teachers are pressured about meeting Title III AYP requirements.

For being a reported subgroup, I'm concerned about the reduction in support for ESL students. In rural Ohio, our small districts are not able to afford a teacher for 1-4 students districtwide. These districts belong to a consortium enabling access to their paltry and falling amount of Title III dollars. In FY07 that amount was $232 per child, FY08 $206, and FY09 $193. As the grant administrator for a consortium of 23 districts, when accountability is so high and support so low, we do our best to provide services with very little. Since K-12 institutions are held accountable for producing more results with less financial support, I'd like to see TESOL courses required as a part of our teacher preparation programs. Employing certified ESL teachers for such small populations is not an option for many districts and we really do want our students to have the kind of education they need to succeed. It benefits us all.

there is another problem this focus is causing, the small districts who would not have ESL teachers if not for the Title III funds is now facing having to fire it's ESL teachers, and then what will happen to the students. We don't have the funds for the teachers without the Title III funds, that were being used only to help the students.

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