Study: Federal Loophole Means Minority-Majority Schools Get Less Funding

A recent report by the Center for American Progress asserts that the promise of equality made by the landmark Brown. v. Board of Education ruling has been broken. Latino and black children tend to be clustered in schools that receive substantially less per-pupil funding than schools with primarily white students. The result is that black and Latino students often receive a separate and unequal education.

CAP places the blame for this disparity on a federal loophole. To receive Title 1 money, the federal government requires districts to provide “comparable” services between poor and wealthy schools. But teacher salaries are excluded from complying with the requirement. As a result, less experienced, lower-paid teachers are clustered in poorer, high-minority schools.

As Ary Spatig-Amerikaner, the author of the CAP report, writes:

“School districts across the country routinely tell the federal government that they are meeting this requirement. But the law explicitly requires districts to exclude teacher salary differentials tied to experience when determining comparability compliance. This is a major exclusion because experience is a chief driver of teachers’ salaries. This misleading process leads to a misleading result—districts think they are providing equal spending on high-need schools and low-need schools, even though they aren’t. This problem has been frequently called the comparability loophole.”

CAP recommends closing the loophole, and wants to see TItle 1 schools receiving at least as much money as other schools when taking into account teacher salaries. The group backed up their conclusion of inequality with some striking numbers. Researchers analyzed 2009 data from the U.S. Department of Education and found that schools with a white population of more than 90 percent spent $733 more per student than schools with a 90 percent or more non-white enrollment. Across the entire country, schools spent an average of $334 more dollars on each white student than non-whites. While several hundred dollars may not appear to be a huge funding gap, it’s important to remember that this is a per-student dollar figure. When you take into account a school’s total enrollment the numbers become significant.

The study’s authors point out a scenario in which a 90 percent minority school would see a $440,000 increase if funding was equalized. The researchers say this could represent 12 more first-year teachers or nine veteran teachers. It could also mean the difference between being able to afford technology, counselors, or more teachers. Less funding also often means lower-paid and less experienced teachers and staff.

If you are searching for local data, the group has compiled a state-by-state analysis. Some states were outliers in which a larger minority population meant more funding. But the states with the most Latino and black students–Texas and California–showed funding disparities. However, this study makes me pose the question: Even if the loophole is closed, will more experienced higher-paid teachers be willing to teach in the poorer, more challenging schools?

Writing for Voxxi News, former teacher Cammy Harbison said teacher pay must shift to a merit-based system to attract talented teachers to poorer schools. Would higher pay for teachers in poorer schools make any difference in teacher quality?

Related Links:

– “Students of color still receiving unequal education.” Center for American Progress.

– PDF of CAP Report.  – “Unequal education: low funding is not the only problem with high-minority schools.” Voxxi. 

– “Study: No Child loophole can mean fewer dollars for poor schools.” McClatchy Newspapers.

Puente Project Improves Latino Student Outcomes in California

The California-based Puente Project has worked to bridge the gaps between Latino youth and college enrollment since 1981. The program’s goal is to increase the number of Latinos graduating from four-year colleges, and then to urge those graduates to return to their communities and give back as mentors.

The program’s success was highlighted in a webinar Thursday hosted by the College Board Advocacy & Policy Center discussing college readiness programs for young men of color. The discussion was the third in a series discussing the challenges young men face.

Counseling, mentoring and teaching are the three main components of the organization. The program trains high school and community college educators to work with students and guide them toward transferring to four-year colleges. Students have the same counselor consistently through their high school career and then again in community college.

Once enrolled in community college, they take a class together on Latino and multicultural literature. “The shared experience gives them buy-in into the program,” Puente program trainer and coordinator Martin De Mucha Flores said during the webinar. “They become critical thinkers.”

De Mucha Flores speaks from personal experience: He was a Puente program student himself.

The project’s work addresses solving a significant problem in California– the poor transfer rates of Latino, black and low-income students from community colleges to universities. Earlier this year, The Civil Rights Project at UCLA noted that just 20 percent of transfer students in 2010 were Latino or black.

The program serves thousands of students, and operates at 61 community colleges and 34 high schools in California. This year, it opened sites at South Texas community colleges in El Paso, McAllen and San Antonio.

The Puente Project was also recently highlighted as a successful program with young men in a policy brief appearing in Perspectives: Issues in Higher Education Policy and Practice. The policy advocacy group Excelencia in Education also named the group as one that’s successfully working to improve Latino graduation rates.

“We’re a tried-and-true program,” said De Mucha Flores, who noted that academic journals have vetted and proved that the model works.

Related Links:

Puente Project Web Site

– “Webinar Series-  Young Men of Color: Charting a  Way for Educational Success.” College Board Advocacy & Policy Center. (Video and presentation links)

NCLR Spotlights Four Pre-K Programs Successful With Latino Children

The National Council of La Raza has released a new report listing best practices for use by early education programs seeking to improve their services for Hispanic children and English language learners.

The civil rights group profiled four programs from around the country that are making progress and made policy recommendations for replicating those models elsewhere. According to NCLR, the programs highlighted exemplify the key areas of professional development, student assessments, language instruction and family engagement:

  • Youth Development, Inc., of New Mexico.  The program provides Head Start to 1,600 children, of whom about 76 percent are Latino. The organization’s professional development goes beyond federal training requirements by providing ongoing lessons throughout the year on topics such as dual-language instruction. Community college professors also lead sessions. Other supports include mentor-coaches who develop goals with beginning teachers and observe classroom instruction.
  • The Latin American Montessori Bilingual Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. The LAMB charter school offers dual-language classes from pre-K through fifth grade. The school has three ways of assessing children: only in their home language; in a language that the children are proficient in, even if it isn’t the home language; or both languages the children know. The school uses formal assessments such as DIBELS and informal assessments including student portfolios and weekly plans.
  • East Coast Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Program in southern Florida. This program with 60 sites serves primarily Mexican migrant farm worker families and focuses on providing dual-language instruction. The group developed a curriculum for toddlers and pre-K students that gradually increases the amount of English used. Learning benchmarks are used, classrooms  are labeled in both English and Spanish, and home visits are conducted.
  • The Concilio in Dallas. This group formed in 1981 works closely with the Dallas Independent School District to increase Hispanic parent involvement . The organization operates the Parents Advocating for Student Excellence program at 29 schools and four prekindergarten sites in the district. Past graduates of PASE recruit parents of preschool students to attend a series of 30 meetings during the school year focused around lessons and activities. Parents who participate must complete homework assignments tied to the sessions.

Related Links:

– “Best Practices in Professional Development.” NCLR.

– “Best Practices in Assessments.” NCLR.

– “Best Practices in Language Instruction.” NCLR.

– “Best Practices in Family Engagement.” NCLR.

– “Expanding early education for Latino children imperative, group says.” Early Years blog, Education Week.

SPLC Files Civil Rights Complaint Against Louisiana District

With Latino populations burgeoning in the South, the Southern Poverty Law Center has started filing complaints against school districts alleging discrimination against Latinos and Spanish-speaking families. The most recent action came this week, when the civil rights organization filed a federal complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education against the school system in Jefferson Parish, La. The complaint alleges that the district has not provided interpreters for Spanish-speaking parents. It is similar to complaints previously filed against the Wake County Public Schools and Durham Public Schools in North Carolina.

The issue is critical because Latinos have only recently become a growing population in the South, and school districts are dealing with new challenges as a result. For example, Latino students make up about 17 percent of the students in the Jefferson Parish school district, and limited English proficient students are about eight percent of the enrollment. In its complaint, the organization described how a 7-year-old boy in the Louisiana district had to interpret for his mother at a parent-teacher conference, but was ill-equipped to do so. The mother, who has two other children, no longer attends conferences or open houses because the district doesn’t make Spanish services available.

“Jefferson Parish public schools must end these discriminatory practices and recognize that these students have the same rights as English-speaking families,” said Jennifer Coco, a staff attorney for the SPLC’s Louisiana office, in a SPLC news release. “This is about ensuring every student in the district has an opportunity to succeed and that all parents have a meaningful opportunity to participate in their child’s education.”

The official complaint is on behalf of 16 Latino families, and also says that employees harass children about their citizenship status. The organization describes how a high school graduate was told she needed a social security number in order to graduate. Another student alleges a teacher called him a “wetback” during classes, but the employee was never disciplined.

District officials told the The Times-Picayune that they make English language learners a top priority and the population’s academic performance is improving. “JPPSS is committed to providing support for all parents with (limited English proficiency) regardless of their primary language,” school system spokeswoman Monica Pierre told the newspaper. Pierre added that policy manuals in Spanish are available to parents.

The SPLC has filed two other complaints this year against the school district for discriminatory actions against black students.

The Civil Rights Act requires that districts provide parents information that they can understand in their language. That information can include written and verbal information about discipline, special education services, events and conferences. They also want more bilingual parent liaisons.

The SPLC also is noted for tracking hate groups across the United States, many of which discriminate against Latinos. It also takes on immigrant justice issues, many of which arise in the South. The growth of Hispanic immigrants in the region has sparked tensions, leading to the passage of laws regarding immigration status in Alabama and Georgia. Courts recently blocked parts of the laws in both states.  The Justice Department also recently announced a new civil rights unit will open in Alabama that will address issues including immigrant rights.

Related Links:

– “SPLC fights discrimination in Jefferson Parish,La., public schools.” SPLC.

– “Jefferson Parish school system subject of third civil rights complaint this year.” The Times-Picayune.

– “Louisiana schools accused of discrimination, complaint says.” Fox News Latino.

Court Rules Alabama Can’t Ask Students About Immigration Status

An Alabama law that required schools to ask the immigration status of students enrolled in the state’s public schools was ruled unconstitutional by a federal appeals court this week.

The schools were supposed to ask for proof of legal status and report data on undocumented children to the state. The law never barred undocumented students from schools, because the Plyler v. Doe U.S. Supreme Court decision guaranteed immigrant children a free public education.

However, the judges in this Alabama case found that asking students’ status could still possibly result in barring children from school. After the law was initially passed, many parents pulled their children out of school. Many students returned after its implementation was blocked.

Both the Obama administration and private organizations filed suit against Alabama’s immigration law.

At one point, an official from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division warned the state superintendent of schools that the law hindered the ability of Latino children to obtain a quality education. The warning said that the law discouraged immigrant parents’ involvement, led to children missing class days and schools becoming less welcoming to Hispanic children.

The judges wrote that fear  could significantly deter undocumented children from enrolling in school.

“Consequently, section 28 operates to place undocumented children, and their families, in an impossible dilemma: either admit your unlawful status outright or concede it through silence,” the court ruled, according to The Birmingham News. “Given the important role of education in our society, and the injuries that would arise from deterring unlawfully present children from seeking the benefit of education, we conclude that the equities favor enjoining this provision,” the court ruled.

Related Links:

– “Alabama public schools can’t check immigration status of students, court rules.” Fox News Latino.

– “Appeals court says requiring schools to collect data on illegal immigrants is unconstitutional.” The Birmingham News.

– “Alabama immigration law casts pall over community’s schools.” Education Week.

– “Court rules that Ala. can’t check student immigration status.” Learning the Language. Education Week.


One in Four Public Elementary Students Is Hispanic, Study Shows

A new report by the Pew Hispanic Center shows that the Latino population hit record highs in college and public school enrollment in 2011.

The analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data illustrates the shifts of the population through the school system. Most notably, researchers found that Latinos are  now the largest minority among 18-24 year-olds on four-year college campuses. The number of Latinos in college grew by 15 percent, or 265,000 students, between 2010 and 2011. Meanwhile, the white college population grew by just three percent.

Latinos now make up about 16.5 percent of all college students, 25.2 percent of two-year college students, 24.7 percent of elementary public school students and 26 percent of public kindergarten students.

While the increase in college enrollment may be cause for celebration for advocates and the number of Latinos earning degrees is increasing, the Hispanic population still is lagging in the share of students completing. According to Pew,  in 2010 among 18 to 24-year-old degrees recipients, Latinos made up 13.2 percent of those earning an associate and 8.5 percent of those earning a bachelor’s degree.

About 46 percent of Latinos who complete high school go on to enroll in two- or four-year colleges, compared with 51 percent of white students. Again, it’s important to remember that due to high dropout rates, many Latinos in this age bracket are not included in this percentage.

In addition, Latinos lag other populations in their preschool enrollment. When Pew took into account both public and private schools, they found that in October 2011 Hispanics made up just 20 percent of nursery school enrollments.

You can use this data to see whether this growth is trickling down to the local level. How much has Latino K-12 and college enrollment grown in your area? If growth has stalled at the college level, are administrators doing anything to address the issue? While public schools are improving preschool access for Hispanic children, do you know of any nonprofits or private schools with their own initiatives geared at providing services for this young population?

And don’t forget that the Pew Hispanic Center’s Richard Fry is a very good resource for reporters who responds amazingly quickly to inquiries regarding demographic data.

Related Links:

– “Hispanic student enrollments reach new highs in 2011.” Pew Hispanic Center.

– “More Hispanics are in College, Report Finds.” The New York Times.

– “Latino college enrollment is surging.” Fronteras.

D.C. Afterschool Programs Asking Immigration Status of Students

The Washington, D.C., public schools began asking the immigration status of children applying to participate in afterschool programs for the first time this year, raising some concerns among members of the Latino community.

On Thursday, The Washington Post reported reported that the school system apparently inadvertently issued a news release in error about the sensitive issue that seemed to indicate the practice would no longer continue. The Washington Times reported that the incorrect release quoted D.C. Office of Latino Affairs director Roxana Olivas as saying that asking children’s immigration status discriminated against families, eroded trust with parents and discouraged participation of parents in the program.

But school officials later retracted that release and issued a new release saying they will continue to ask status because of federal requirements tied to a $6.8 million grant the district received supporting the programs. District officials pointed out that federal funds cannot be used toward illegal immigrants, even though they are allowed to attend public schools.

However, they also said the district would use other funds to allow undocumented children to participate in the programs.

“While DCPS does receive HHS funding, it uses other funds to ensure all children can participate in afterschool programming,” the release noted. “DCPS has said that it has no intention of turning students or families away for afterschool programs or services. Parents who do not submit the citizenship documentation will still be permitted to enroll their children in afterschool programs.”

The dueling press releases clearly illustrate that asking children’s status can be a sensitive and controversial issue.

The Plyler v. Doe U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowed undocumented children to attend public K-12 schools. Recent attempts by legislators to ask children’s status and track the numbers of undocumented students in U.S. schools have stirred up controversies in several states. They’ve also caused civil rights groups to say that such actions discourage children from enrolling in school.

This incident in the District raises an interesting issue. In many communities, non-profit groups partner with schools to provide services and federal funds are used to help children in programs that extend beyond school hours. Have you heard of children being asked their status by groups, or even told they cannot participate in a program because they are undocumented? Does this practice discourage children from participating in these activities?

Related Links:

– “OSSE statement on citizenship requirements for HHS funded afterschool programs.” Office of the State Superintendent of Education. 

– “D.C. after-school programs get caught up in immigration politics.” The Washington Post.

– “D.C. clarifies error on after-school programs.” Washington Times.

Undocumented Immigrant Students May Begin Applying for “Deferred Action” Today

Young undocumented immigrants today may begin applying for “deferred action” status that would protect them from deportation for two years and allow them to work. The new protected status is the result of a policy change announced by President Obama in June.

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, up to 1.7 million undocumented young people ages 30 and younger–about 85 percent of whom are Latino–could stand to benefit.

To qualify, undocumented immigrants must have lived in the United States continuously since June 15,2007; must have moved to the United States before reaching their 16th birthday; be enrolled in school, have a high school diploma or GED, or have been honorably discharged from the military when they apply; and cannot have committed a felony or significant misdemeanor.

In addition, young people can prove their identity with passports or birth certificates, any photo ID, school transcripts, medical and financial records, sworn affidavits and other evidence.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has posted instructions on how to apply online, in addition to lists of other documents young people can provide.  They must pay a $465 application fee, but young people with high financial need may apply for an exemption.

The change stops short of the Dream Act, which has repeatedly failed to pass in Congress and would have provided path to citizenship for undocumented youth.

Still, the changes are making many young people more optimistic about their futures.

Ariel Ruiz, 23, immigrated illegally to the U.S. from Mexico at age 10 and is a graduate of Whitman College with a degree in sociology. Because he was undocumented, after he graduated he worked one summer harvesting garlic.

“I’m finally able to see a pathway to doing what I studied to do,” he told The Chronicle of Higher Education. “It will be a great source of motivation for students who gave up on education, thinking they would end up picking apples or onions.”

The Chronicle story pointed out that many colleges have not been actively informing students about the policy, even though many of their students are eligible. However, number of groups across the country are offering young people assistance in applying and determining their eligibility. In my region, Catholic Charities of Dallas is offering appointments. The group United We Dream is providing information online.

Related Links:

– “Up to 1.7 million unauthorized immigrant youth may benefit from new deportation rules.” Pew Hispanic Center.

– “Instruction for consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals.” U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

– “U.S. opens a door to a dream.” The Chronicle of Higher Education.

– United We Dream.

– “Relief for young undocumented immigrants starts today.” Learning the Language. Education Week.

MALDEF Investigates Latino Achievement Gap in New Mexico

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund  is investigating the lagging academic performance of Latino students in New Mexico. The Albuquerque Journal reports that the civil rights group is probing the substantial achievement gap between Hispanic and white students and how it relates to state funding. Given the announcement, some are wondering whether MALDEF plans to sue the state.

About 48 percent of  Latino third-graders in New Mexico are proficient in reading, compared with 69 percent of white students, the newspaper reported. Latino students make up about 70 percent of the state’s public school students.

News 4/KOB in New Mexico reported that Gov. Susana Martinez agreed that closing the achievement gap for Hispanics is a top priority, but that students of all backgrounds in the state need help. The state’s public education secretary, Hannah Skandera, told the station that efforts are underway to address the problem. “We require every school across the state to demonstrate and provide evidence of a plan of closing the achievement gap,” Skandera said. “We have not done these things before in our state. It really is a resounding commitment. I applaud MALDEF for taking their position on this.”

The recent annual “Kids Count” report on child well-being by the Annie E. Casey Foundation recently found that New Mexico ranks 49th in the nation in education.

Related Links:

– “Group investigates ‘achievement gap.'” Albuquerque Journal. 

– “National civil rights group claims Hispanic students deserve better in schools.” KOB.

– “Education report gives state nods, knocks.” Santa Fe New Mexican.

– KIDS COUNT profile for New Mexico.


Illinois Law Boosts Bilingual Education Programs

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed a law on Thursday that aims to strengthen the state’s bilingual education programs by ordering a report  on their effectiveness and by creating ways to increase parent involvement.

The law, House Bill 3819, was sponsored by state representative Linda Chapa LaVia and state senator Iris Martinez. “Parents of non-English speaking students want–and need–to feel a greater stake in navigating their child’s education,” Rep. Chapa LaVia said at the ceremony, reported Fox News Latino. “This new law opens the door to such innovations as ‘parent academies’ to accomplish that.”

The law supports the creation of parent academies for parents of bilingual students that will be held in Spanish. These programs are intended to help immigrant parents navigate the school system. The academies will focus on teaching parents about topics including understanding standardized tests, encouraging reading at home,  promoting homework completion, building character and encouraging a relationship with their child’s teachers.

It also requires that bilingual programs’ success rates be evaluated by the Illinois Advisory Council on Bilingual Education and that the findings be delivered in a report to the state superintendent by January 2013. The report will evaluate whether bilingual programs should be modified to increase student success and boost parent involvement. It also asks the council to address how bilingual parent advisory committees at the school district level can be used to increase parent input on the programs’ effectiveness.

Fox reported that Illinois State Board of Education figures show that in 2010, about 183,000 students did not speak English as their first language. They made up almost 10 percent of all students. About 80 percent of the students were Spanish-speaking.

Governor Quinn added that the law “will keep Illinois on the cutting edge of bilingual education programs to ensure that every student is ready for the workforce,” reported Fox.

Related Links:

– “Law aims to strengthen bilingual education in Illinois.” Fox News Latino/EFE

– “New Illinois law to evaluate bilingual education.” AP.

– “Illinois law strengthens bilingual education.” WREX.

– House Bill 3819.

– Illinois Advisory Council on Bilingual Education.