Loudoun County K-12 ESL Expenditures 2004-2008

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sterling_elementary.jpg

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).

esl_numbers.jpg

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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» Whose Limits? from snapped shot

Sterling, Virginia I highly recommend heading over this way to find out where a considerable chunk of our education tax dollars are going here in the Commonwealth of Virginia. After you've read the article (excellent work, Joe!), ask yourself this q Read More

12 Comments

Ted said:

So I guess after a while we'll start seeing the "Death to Gringos" vehicle stickers (which I saw for the first time yesterday) in English instead of Spanish.

Heh, yes that may be the whole point.

stay puft said:

Damn! You dug up some numbers! That's better than Lou Dobbs could have done, and he's got a whole team working for him!

There's no doubt that more money is going toward these esl programs. That's a good thing, right? I've heard it said that these immigrants don't care about being Americans because they don't even bother learning the language. Isn't it true, though, that this is how it's always been for the first generation? It's their children who are able to fully integrate, and esl programs help that happen.

You bring up the issue of opportunity costs. It's true that the money could have been spent on something other than creating local professional jobs and supporting local school supply companies. Nevertheless, there's a good chance these kids will grow up and remain a part of the community into adulthood. So I ask, what is the cost of not teaching these kids English?


These are good questions, which the post is intended to elicit.

There is another side to ESL which I have not gotten into here, which is that it does not do a very good job at all of "teaching kids English", but is in fact a smokescreen for continuing to teach in another language. The interior signage at the school in the picture, when I was there last year, was 50-50% English/Spanish, with plenty of the signs in Spanish first, with English below. People with familiarity with the Loudoun school system have told me of cases in which only a nominal amount of actual English is taught, but instead whole subjects are taught primarily in Spanish to the Spanish speaking students.

This is hearsay, I admit, so I hope eventually some people with firsthand knowledge of ESL will contribute to the discussion. I'm sure I will have more posts on this topic in the future.

stay Puft said:

"in fact a smokescreen for continuing to teach in another language"

that's no good! I have taught ESL, and the policy has always been that the entire class is taught in English, at a level that's appropriate for the students. Of course it's challenging to the students, and the teachers, but it's also effective. I've never heard of ELS being taught in the students' native language.

Once again we are on the same page, SPMM. I would have expected nothing less from you.

Had Enough said:

Was I the only one that read this article in the Post on Thursday, August 31, 2006?

I was outraged, on the other hand if they can read and write fluently in their first language they are ready to go back home to where ever they came from.

The entire education system throughout this country is failing because the educators spend all of their time on the foreign students.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/30/AR2006083000324.html

And Now, Teaching Spanish to Spanish Speakers
Loudoun's Goal Is Adding Fluency in Reading and Writing the Language

stay puft said:

Some school systems in Virginia have increased funding of ESL programs, therefore, "The entire education system throughout this country is failing because the educators spend all of their time on the foreign students."

let me just point out that this was just the sort of nonsense I was talking about when I said, "none of the claims that illegal immigrants are adversely effecting our country are verifiable."

Had Enough said:

What island in the Pacific do you live on, because it couldn't be anywhere in this country?

Tom said:

The biggest drain on the budget in Loudoun has been (after SPED)the continuing need to build more schools and hire more personnel. In the Dulles South area a new school opened in 2005, and another is slated to open next month. These buildings are within a mile of each other. The school that opened in 2005 is already overcrowded. In this area of the county illegal immigration has nothing to do with the growth unless you consider that a lot of the mansions out there were probably built by the illegals.
Also, special ed is a far bigger drain on the budget than ESL. It's not abnormal for a student in SPED to have a homeroom teacher, a special ed teacher, an educational assistant, a speech therapist, an occupational therapist, and even a PT. More severe cases may also require supports from autism or MR specialists. The massive amount of personnel working for a small fraction of the student body costs a small fortune at each school. Additionally, assistant principals, instead of managing the school, spend much of their time dealing with special education meetings and paperwork.
The potential returns from investing in ESL are probably far greater to society than the huge amounts of people and dollars being thrown at those least likely to succeed in school, and who in some cases will require continuing state support just to survive as they get older.However, special ed is protected under Federal law, and Loudoun bends over backward (perhaps going way too far) to prevent parents from filing suits and grievances by providing too many services to kids who don't need them.

Dan said:

Don't forget :

Every 600 illegal immigrant elementary school students is a new $15 million dollar capital expense to build the school, These same 600 students are a recurring expense of $7.2 million per year, with a total cost through grades 1-5 of $36 million dollars.. Total recurring cost of these 600 from grades 1-12 :
$86.4 MILLION !!!

jacob said:

Joe,
Great article.

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