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What's the Budget for the Federal English-Language Office?

The size of the budget for the office of English-language acquisition, or OELA, of the U.S. Department of Education requested for fiscal 2011 is $800 million. But in reporting this week on the new director for that office, Rosalinda B. Barrera, I became aware of how little of that budget she actually oversees.

Most of the OELA money is for formula grants to states that support English-language-acquisition programs. And oversight of those formula grants was moved at the end of the George W. Bush administration to the office of elementary and secondary education. OELA is no longer in charge of administering or monitoring those grants.

In fiscal 2011, Barrera is in charge of about $56 million of the $800 million requested for Title III, the section of the No Child Left Behind Act that authorizes funds for English-language-acquisition programs. About $45.3 million of that is for professional development grants, $5 million is for grants to benefit Native American and Alaska Native children, $3.9 million is for evaluations, and $2 million is for the National Clearinghouse for English-Language Acquisition, which has a contract to disseminate information about ELLs.

Barrera told me in an e-mail that she's in charge of an additional $17 million in funds that were a carryover from the previous fiscal year and will be spent in fiscal 2011. She also oversees the $26.9 million Foreign Language Assistance Program, which supports schools to teach foreign languages and is authorized under Title V of the No Child Left Behind Act.

As my article published today about Barrera's plans indicates, she aims to do as much as she can with what she has. But some say, she could be a much more influential voice on ELL issues if oversight of the Title III formula grants was moved back into the OELA office.

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