Pandemic Funding for English Learners

As we reopen schools, teachers and administrators can rely on the pandemic funding for English Learners for program support and teacher training. Teachers can only adapt to the new normal if they have the training to do so. And that training must focus on the specific educational needs of EL students and their families.

The American Rescue Plan (ARP), passed and signed into law in March 2021, provides $123 billion in new, flexible funds for school districts that they can spend over the next three-and-a-half school years — the largest ever one-time federal investment in K-12 education. ARP requires that at least 20 percent of the funds address learning loss, which was especially significant for ELs. The key going forward is to supplement existing funding sources for ELs such as Title I and Title III with ARP funds.

In a recent study, EdResearch found that ELs have been more deeply and negatively affected by COVID-19 than their English-speaking peers in these three ways:

1. ELs participated in remote and in-person learning at disproportionately lower rates.
2. ELs are experiencing more significant academic learning lag, including language lag.
3. EL parents feel more disconnected from their child’s school.

Here are five strategies that education leaders should consider when using COVID-19 funds for the needs of EL students:

1. Leverage the cultural and linguistic assets of ELs to enrich their education.
2. Focus on training and professional development programs that address both language and cultural relevancy.
3. Build meaningful relationships with the parents of ELs.
4. Provide high-quality and effective professional development for educators, especially for English as a second language.
5. Implement a high-quality English as a second language / bilingual model for families that decide not to return to in-person instruction.

The Latino Family Literacy Project trains school staff to support Parent and Family Engagement with Hispanic parents and students. The award-winning programs and culturally competent framework for integrating Spanish-speaking parents into school academics are broken down in such a way that when teachers and paraprofessionals complete the training, they are ready to work together in their outreach efforts with parents. Parents learn new ways of participating with each other at school and with their children using culturally relevant literature for reading comprehension, vocabulary development, ESL, and are provided with materials for home use.