We’re continuing our deeper dive on the Texas Commission on Public School Finance Expenditures Working Group recommendations, which propose to increase the bilingual education weight within the school finance formulas from 0.10 to 0.15, at an annual cost to the state of $15 million to $50 million. (Weights are used to determine how much funding flows to districts for different populations of students with different needs.)
The weight assigned to bilingual education in 1984 was then (and still is) 0.10. Obviously, much has changed in the last 34 years and the single bilingual education weight of 0.10 now includes students in dual language programs. Back in June, the commission heard from a panel of expert educators–including teachers, principals, and superintendents–that demonstrated how dual language programs have been shown to have better academic outcomes than other bilingual education programs. In particular, Dr. Elena Izquierdo, University of Texas at El Paso professor and renowned expert on English Language Learners, presented compelling examples of how dual language benefits not only the individual students, but that the overall economy benefits as well. All of the members of the panel agreed that districts need additional support to implement dual language programs properly.
The increase of the bilingual education weight from 0.10 to 0.15 is a step in the right direction and we are glad to see that the commission recognizes the important role bilingual education has in educating all students, not just ELL students. However, it is worth noting that back in 1984, our friends at the Intercultural Developmental Research Association (IDRA) conducted research showing that the add-on costs for implementing bilingual education programs ranged from between 0.25 to 0.41, with some of the variation attributable to the higher cost of recruiting bilingual or ESL teachers in more rural communities or regions. We hope the Legislature takes a much larger step toward increasing the current weight to provide school districts with the funding necessary to properly implement increasing standards for bilingual education.