Student literacy needs became the focus of Senate Education Policy this past week as leaders talked about reading proficiency. The $107 million English Language Learners cross-subsidy brought forth a proposal to increase funding in the House Education Finance Committee.
- Reading Proficiency: Sen. Carla Nelson, committee chair, introduced two bills to fund LETRS for all K-3 teachers in LETRS by allowing districts to use the 3.5% compensatory set aside for this purpose and one which will mandate districts use literacy incentive aid for LETRS training until all district K-3 teachers are trained
- English Language Learners: HF 448 aims to cut that the current cross subsidy in half by doubling the ELL revenue per pupil and quadrupling the concentration factor for an annual estimated investment of $89 million.
Chris Dibble, Southwest Middle School Principal in MREA member district Albert Lea, testified in favor of increased funding for English Language Learners (HF 448).
The current ELL cross subsidy is $107 million statewide. HF 448 aims to cut that in half by doubling the ELL revenue per pupil and quadrupling the concentration factor for an annual
estimated investment of $89 million.
Dibble began his testimony with the story of Paw Paw who is a 12-year-old Karen refugee who
arrived in Albert Lea under one month ago. “She has spent her entire life up to this point at the Mae La Refugee Camp in Thailand,” he told legislators. “On January 29, Paw Paw stepped off an airplane with her mother and two brothers,” and is now enrolled in Southwest Middle school as “a Level 1 English student having no English skills at all.” View his full testimony.
Chris went on to testify that Albert Lea has about 300 ELL students with an annual cross subsidy
of $414,638. This bill would reduce that cross subsidy to a little over $100,000. Learn more about Albert Lea’s ELL program.
Because this is not a budget year and requires on-going funding, the odds of this passing are low.
Minnesota’s reading proficiency has not increased and is declining, while Mississippi and Florida’s have increased dramatically, according to a presentation by Dr. Christy Horanetz of the Foundation for Excellence in Education from Tallahassee, Florida, to the Senate E-12 Policy Committee.
She described the intense efforts in those states to bring this about and cited a specific grades K-3 teacher training and coaching program used in these states: Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS).
Sen. Carla Nelson introduced two bills to fund LETRS for all K-3 teachers in LETRS by allowing districts to use the 3.5% compensatory set aside for this purpose and one which will mandate districts use literacy incentive aid for LETRS training until all district K-3 teachers are trained. These were combined into SF2990. Sen. Roger Chamberlain introduced SF3187, supported by MSBA, to appropriate $1 million for LETRS training.
Sen. Nelson’s approach will direct significant dollars to a specific literacy training program. Literacy Incentive aid generated $21.5 million in revenue for rural districts ($46 million statewide).
Having flexibility for the compensatory education set aside for extended time will be valuable, because it is difficult to do extended day instruction since transportation is not an allowable expense. However directing it to one specified training program hinders flexibility.
Communications with MREA members who have participated in LETRS training found that is good but very intensive and time consuming, that we do not have trained providers in Minnesota yet, and follow up coaching is needed to maximize the effects of the training.
Training and follow-up coaching does work to improve elementary students’ reading. The University’s Center for Reading Research conducted effective teacher training with the Reading First grants for elementary schools. But when the federal dollars ended, the training ended. The Center now runs the PRESS program for schools on a fee basis.