In this summer's special session, state legislators will consider ways to comply with a federal court order mandating that the state provide an "adequate level of funding" for English Language Learners (ELL).
But does "adequate funding" mean that the state should spend more than the reportedly almost $80 million it spends each year on ELL programs? Not necessarily.
A February study revealed that neither the Department of Education nor the state has reliable information on the costs or expenditures of Arizona's ELL programs, making it difficult to determine what constitutes "adequate funding." At a minimum, policymakers should remedy this lack of information by requiring schools to submit accurate financial statements on an annual basis.
Policymakers should also question the assumption that more money will be the answer to lagging achievement among ELL students. The February study found that some ELL students were not being taught in English, English-speaking children were classified as ELL students, and parents were not informed of their children's English proficiency test results.
Measures that improve accountability will help ensure valuable public money spent on such programs achieves the goal of providing the education that children deserve.