Before the U.S. House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations, Ralph Regula, Chairman
April 26, 2001
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:
I am pleased to appear before the Committee today to testify on the fiscal year 2002 budget request of $460 million for Bilingual and Immigrant Education.
Administration's Reauthorization Proposal
As you know, the Administration is currently working with the Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which covers programs serving limited English proficient and recent immigrant students. These discussions are based largely on the proposal contained in No Child Left Behind -- the President's framework for reforming elementary and secondary education -- to transform existing Bilingual and Immigrant Education programs into a new State formula grant program.
This new program would consolidate the current bilingual discretionary grant activities -- including 13 different Bilingual Education grant activities, two Foreign Language activities, and the Immigrant Education formula program-into a single formula grant that would enable States to design a comprehensive plan for addressing the academic needs of limited English proficient and recent immigrant students.
Under the proposed program, States would have the flexibility to address the academic needs of limited English proficient and recent immigrant students throughout the State. The new program would improve accountability by requiring States to set performance objectives ensuring that limited English proficient students achieve English fluency within three years and meet State standards in core content areas. In particular, States and local educational agencies would be held accountable demonstrating annual increases in English proficiency for students served under the program.
Limited English Proficient Students
The population served by the programs in the Bilingual and Immigrant Education account has grown dramatically over the past decade. States currently report that their schools enroll 3.7 million limited English proficient students, or almost a 50-percent increase over the 2.5 million enrolled in the 1992-93 school year. More importantly for the Department's programs, growth in the numbers of these students is spreading across the Nation. California, New York, and Texas continue to enroll the majority of these students (63 percent), but their share is declining because of the rapid growth in other States. For example, 10 States (Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Idaho, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, and Tennessee) reported that their limited English proficient population more than doubled between 1992-93 and 1996-97. As a result of this growth, limited English proficient students are increasingly enrolled in schools that have little prior experience in serving them. The new program would direct more funds to such schools by targeting funds to States and school districts based on the number of these students rather than through competitive grant awards.
While the number of children who speak a language other than English at home grew by 1.8 million between 1980 and 1990, 71 percent of that increase was among those children who speak English very well. The data thus indicate that language minority students in 1990 were significantly more proficient in English than language minority students in 1980. New 2000 Census data will soon be available that will allow us to gauge if English language acquisition continued to accelerate during the last decade. The proposed State formula program is designed to help increase the rate at which limited English proficient students learn English.
Last year, the Committee expressed support for the Department's performance indicators, developed in response to the Government Performance and Results Act, that measured the speed of transition of limited English proficient students to mainstream classes. Next year, we expect to begin receiving State data that will enable us to measure the rate at which these students and recent immigrant students are learning English, and the extent to which they are achieving to the same high academic standards in core curriculum as all other students.
The fiscal year 2002 request of $460 million for this account is the same as the fiscal year 2001 appropriation. The entire amount, however, would be used under the proposed State formula program that would serve immigrant students as well as native-born students who are not yet proficient in English. The program would provide critical assistance to the Nation's school districts to improve services for more than 3.7 million limited English proficient students who need to learn English quickly in order to succeed in their elementary and secondary education, go on to college, and participate fully in society.
My colleagues and I will be happy to respond to any questions you have regarding the 2002 budget request for Bilingual and Immigrant Education.