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New MPI Brief Examines How States Can Build More Equitable K-12 Educational Systems by Leveraging Federal, State and Local Funding Mechanisms
Press Release
Wednesday, March 31, 2021

New MPI Brief Examines How States Can Build More Equitable K-12 Educational Systems by Leveraging Federal, State and Local Funding Mechanisms

WASHINGTON — Ensuring that school funding is shared equitably is central to achieving strong K-12 educational systems across the United States. However states have yet to implement school funding formulas that generate adequate and equitable resources for all students. For English Learners (EL), who have supplemental learning needs and are disproportionately likely to attend low-resourced schools, well-designed resource allocation is of particular importance. While there have been notable gains in school finance reform and funding for EL instruction over the last several decades, wide inequalities across communities persist—a reality exacerbated by the educational and budgetary challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In the latest in a series of English Learner Insights, Migration Policy Institute (MPI) Senior Policy Analyst Julie Sugarman provides a comprehensive overview of the complex federal, state and local budgetary mechanisms relevant to EL education. The brief also offers recommendations for how local, state and national stakeholders can improve funding opportunities for underserved schools, districts and states.

While U.S. schools have traditionally primarily been locally funded, state and federal funding sources serve an important role in evening the playing field for school districts with limited revenue sources and large shares of high-needs students, including ELs. However, at each of these levels, translating budgetary responsibilities into targeted action remains a challenge, as stakeholders navigate complex concerns, such as rising numbers of EL students, difficulties tracking revenue, COVID-19 related budget cuts, data transparency and more.  

The policy brief identifies several key ways that actors at different levels can support more equitable learning systems for ELs. Recommendations include:

  • Increasing federal Title III funding to meet the needs of a growing EL population, which comprises nearly 10 percent of U.S. students.
  • Providing U.S. Department of Education guidance to states on how to monitor and evaluate whether federal funds are equitably serving ELs and meeting their specific needs.
  • Creating state systems for schools and districts to report indicators of EL service provision and equitable access to schoolwide funding and resources.
  • Investment in local resources to help families with EL children better understand how education systems work, including the budget process.

“As school systems navigate the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the associated economic downturn and its forecasted adverse effects on education budgets, it will be more important than ever for policymakers, educators and advocates to work together to make sure ELs’ unique needs are prioritized,” Sugarman writes. “As a diverse and growing student population, ensuring their educational success is a key investment in a more equitable future.”

Read the policy brief here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/funding-english-learner-education-policy-budget-levers.

For MPI’s collected works on English Learners, visit: www.migrationpolicy.org/programs/nciip-english-learners-and-every-student-succeeds-act-essa.

And for an interactive data tool showing numbers of ELs at U.S. and state levels, visit: www.migrationpolicy.org/programs/data-hub/charts/number-and-share-english-language-learners-state.