California education officials say it’s hard to put an exact price tag on bilingual education. The bulk of funding comes from the state’s Economic Impact Aid – primarily set aside for low-income students – which in 1997-98 was about $368 million.
The amount a school receives is determined by total enrollment, average daily attendance, and the number of low-income and limited-English students.
Norm Gold, of the state Bilingual Compliance Department, says there is no state-required accounting process for how much school districts spend on English learners.
Local districts decide how to pay for English learning programs, teaching resources and materials and can pull from both state and federal funds designated for disadvantaged children.
In Orange County, Santa Ana offers a $2,000 incentive to attract bilingual teachers to the district. But many districts, such as Anaheim City District,
do not pay its bilingual teachers or assistants more.
There are several studies that try to pinpoint the cost of bilingual education, but funding varies tremendously from district to district.
Here are a few estimates:
. The California Department of Education and the National Center for Education took the state budget in 1995-96 and tried to determine LEP (limited English proficiency) spending per student. They found that out of the $26.8 billion the state set aside for K-12 education, LEP spending was $319 million,
or 1.2 percent of the total budget. Per pupil spending that year was $4,927,
which meant LEP students received $241 in supplemental funds.
. In 1992, the American Institute of Research, an independent nonprofit research company, took about 14 California schools distinguished for their specific language programs and assessed the cost of each. They found that English-immersion programs were the cheapest, at $175 spent per LEP student.
Transitional bilingual programs, which keep kids through fifth or sixth grade, cost $180. Early-exit bilingual, where kids are mainstreamed by second or third grade, costs $214 per student. Two-way bilingual programs, where English-speaking and LEP students learn two languages simultaneously until sixth grade, average $876. English pullout programs, where students get pulled out of class a couple of hours a day to work with a language specialist,