Education

Indiana education leaders want budget doubled for English language learners

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Education officials are pushing to get more money for English learners students.

The state says such students are struggling to catch up from falling behind in the pandemic.

According to education officials, a lot of these English learners students have not been able to return to normal rates of learning before COVID-19 hit.

“We’ve had an influx in English language learners and the needs are great,” the founder and CEO of Global Prep Academy at Riverside 44, Mariama Shaheed, said.

The Department of Education is asking for $100 million to provide more resources for English learners and their teachers in the next two year budget.

Right now, it has a budget of $55 million for the Non-English Speaking Program.

The secretary of education Katie Jenner says about 36% of these students are not proficient in reading and writing.

“We should look at those schools that are at the rock bottom and figure out how do we infuse more resources for them to catch up and create more of an equitable way,” state senator Eddie Melton said.

According to the Department of Education, there are about 77,563 English learners students across the state.

In 2017, there were about 59,102 — that is an increase of more than 30%.

State officials say during COVID-19, English learners in fifth through 8th grades fell behind especially in English language arts.

“We are in a crisis and every time we talk about educational funding we nickel and dime even though it’s half of the state budget to the point that some public officials probably say we need to push the envelope just a little and the first thought that comes to their mind is reducing funding for education,” state senator Fady Qaddoura said.

“When students were at home learning virtually there’s a level of support that’s needed in the home and when families don’t speak English and they’re not able to provide that level of support the gap is that much wider for students whose primary language was not English,” Shaheed said.

Jenner says she is open to ideas to bring change.

“We’re a humble crew. If there are things that are missing we’re always willing to attack that based on ideas that come from local communities,” Jenner said.

The department of education says it also wants to rename the Non-English Speaking Program to Indiana English Support Program.