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In Fast-Growing ELL States, What Does Spending Look Like?

South Carolina has seen the most extreme growth in its population of English-language learners—a jump of 610 percent in the last decade—but the state does not provide schools with any resources on top of the regular per-pupil allocation to educate those students.

Mississippi, in the same period, saw its English-learner population grow by 158 percent, but like in South Carolina, its schools don't get any state aid to help pay for their educational services. Nevada, a third high-growth ELL state, until this year had not ever provided targeted funding to schools to pay for the education of ELLs. A measure signed earlier this year by Gov. Brian Sandoval is changing that.

By contrast, Kansas, North Carolina, and Virginia, other high-growth states, are providing state aid for English-learners that ranges from about $450 to nearly $750 per student.

In the latest issue of VUE, or Voices in Urban Education, a publication from the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, authors Sonya Douglass Horsford and Carrie Sampson compare funding supports for English-learners in the 10 states where their growth has been most dramatic since 2001. The entire issue of the quarterly publication is devoted to English-learner issues and includes articles about dual-language education at the high school level and cultivating parent leaders in Boston's immigrant Chinese community.

As the authors make clear, the way in which states make decisions on how to allocate funds for ELL education varies widely, making it pretty much impossible to determine if more money actually translates to higher achievement for ELLs. They argue that state-level politicians and education policymakers should view their shifting demographics and growing ELL populations as a human capital opportunity worth investing in, rather than another problem to be solve.

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