Loudoun County K-12 ESL Expenditures 2004-2008
Trying to find out how much money the local public school system spends on English as a Second Language instruction is like pulling teeth - from a mako shark. For whatever reason, they really don't make this data easy to locate.
I've recently gotten the following pages from the Loudoun County Public Schools FY08 Appropriated Budget which detail actual expenditures on ESL from 2004-2006 and budgeted amounts for FY07 and FY08. The first image shows the FY08 increases and the second the budget detail for all years.
The data is interesting to review both for the change in expenditures over that span and also how the amounts compare to other portions of the overall Loudoun County budget.
First, though: The following chart, from details of the Washington Area Boards of Education budgets, shows the change in ESL participation in the area school systems from 1999-2006. (Click the image for the Excel spreadsheet).
You can see that some systems experienced dramatic percentage increases in ESL participation while others were more modest (and Arlington actually decreased). Loudoun County and Manassas City went from nearly nonexistent ESL totals to much more substantial numbers during this period.
The gross numbers for each area hide the geographic variations within each, which would likely show a more dramatic impact if the numbers for specific schools were broken out. In Loudoun, for instance, the increase is largely in the eastern schools, most notably in Sterling, and there may be a similar disparity in Prince William.
(The photo at the top of this post, taken at Sterling Elementary a couple weeks ago, is revealing. The other side of the sign is in English, but the point remains.)
Regarding the Loudoun County budget numbers, the percentage increases for ESL are impressive. From 2004 to the 2008 budget year, salary expenditures rise from $4,189,233 to $11,791,330, an increase of 181%.
Part time personnel increases from $53,277 to $229,010 - 330%.
Instructional supplies from $68,368 to $167,784 - 145%.
Professional services from $383 to $34,556 - a big percentage.
And "Fringe costs" increase from $1,284,819 to $4,945,209 - 285%.
Between FY04 and FY08, the total expenditure for ESL in Loudoun County public schools increases from $5,633,606 to $17,356,350 - 208%.
As is the case everywhere else, the Loudoun school system is under constant budget pressure, so the expenditure on ESL programs may raise some eyebrows - but in the context of an FY08 total budget of $513,204,485, the ESL component is a relatively small portion.
Possibly more significant is the "opportunity cost" - the effect the increased proportion of resources, financial and personnel, dedicated to education of non-English speaking students has on the rest of the programs in a given school. Parents of students or prospective students in Sterling's public schools have told me they think the accommodations made for ESL detract from the quality of education for the other students. Second-hand, I have heard some teachers have reported the same thing. This is basically anecdotal evidence, of course, and whether growth in ESL programs has a negative effect on other programs in a given school will have to be a discussion for another day.
It is illuminating to compare the increases and total expenditures on ESL education to other areas of the FY08 Loudoun County budget. Here are some items from the budget. (I recommend clicking through to the linked pages to see what all is included in these budget areas):
Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services, 2004-2008
From $19,692,005 to $30,091,000 - 53% increase
Family Services 2004-2008
From $24,876,923 to $31,798,000 - 28% increase
(Compare the following to ESL "Fringe Costs")
Within Family Services: Career Support Services 2004-2008
From $4,131,596 to $4,384,000 - 6% increase
Health Department 2004-2008
From $3,455,748 to $4,219,000 - 22% increase
Taxpayer portion of spending on Parks, Recreation and Community Services 2004-2008
From $11,879,070 to $18,363,000 - 55% increase
Taxpayer-funded spending on Aging Services 2004-2008
From $2,109,861 to $4,057,000 - 92% increase
Plenty - if not most - residents of Loudoun know someone who has sought and/or used services within the above areas, each of which has had much less generous increases in funding than ESL over the past four years.
UPDATE: NVTH visitor Had Enough sends this reminder from a Washington Post story last year: "And Now, Teaching Spanish to Spanish Speakers"
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