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ESOL Cost in the FCPS - letter

ESOL Cost in the FCPS - letter

The following letter was sent by FCPS Board member Elizabeth Shultz
to FCTA's Charles McAndrew on March 26, 2015

From: Schultz, Elizabeth (School Board Member)
Sent: Thursday, March 26, 2015 2:38 PM
To: 'Charles R. McAndrew'
Cc: Fields, Melissa
Subject: RE: ESOL COST in the FCPS
Importance: High

Mr. McAndrew:

Thank you for your questions following Pat Herrity’s Budget Presentation with Ed Long last week. I enjoyed our conversation and the opportunity to share some of the significant concerns Fairfax County faces as we undertake the FY16 Budget for Fairfax County Public Schools.

It became clear to me early last year that potential impact from federal policy and actions by President Obama and his Administration could significantly affect Fairfax County Public Schools. Since taking office, I have been diligently working on highlighting the difficulties with FCPS' student projection methodology and the need to increase accuracy and report on the difference between that which was projected and the actuals. This is important when, for example, an unexpected number of students 'arrive' in Fairfax so we are then able to more clearly discern such outlier actuals when they occur. I spent, therefore, a significant amount of time last year working with FCPS Facilities and Transportation staff and Dr. Garza seeking improved methodologies and identification of where students wind up -- not just accuracy in total numbers.

When the national news stories began breaking in the local and national news about the federal government’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) under the Department of Health and Human Services had 'resettled' unaccompanied minors throughout the United States, I began a line of inquiries about where, when and how/how many students may (were) resettled in Fairfax County and therefore, likely, Fairfax County Public Schools.

Regarding your inquiry about the documentation which may requested at the time of registration in public schools, the prohibition against seeking legal status is a result of a federal case, Plyler v. Doe (1982).

Given the nature of privacy laws and that Plyler v. Doe Supreme Court case, FCPS is prohibited from asking any questions about status which could "chill" the environment for students being registered for school. The Department of Justice has issued a fact sheet specifically providing guidance on this issue. Nonetheless, the financial impact to FCPS cannot be denied even if cannot be fully defined when one learns that, as of as of the latest numbers, 1,373 unaccompanied minors have been placed in Fairfax County by the federal government's ORR.

Depending upon to which Board member concerns are directed, the answers would likely yield starkly different results. From my perspective, I am very comfortable saying that FCPS could not have predicted, planned or budgeted for 1,373 or some significant portion thereof, additional high-needs students this academic year. You may find the Board's discussion around its Legislative Agenda -- an amendment to which I initiated on this topic -- from a November Board meeting as outlined below highly instructive. The Board's discussion covers issues of funding at the local, state and federal level, none of which have provided funding for the education of unaccompanied minors who, in the case of Fairfax County, comprise the second largest placement of unaccompanied minors in the United States by the federal government's ORR. For your convenience, I have provided the link which begins at the specific Agenda item.

While we do not know how many of the unaccompanied minors are enrolled in FCPS, there has been a substantial uptick in ESOL enrollment, particularly Level 1, which basically indicates no facility for the English language. It is reasonable, therefore, to associate the increased need for additional educational services with the ORR's resettlement action.

Any student enrolled in FCPS is entitled to access to all services for which they qualify -- regardless of status, remembering the Plyler v. Doe decision. Conversely, there are no provisions such as a tax credits or rebates for private education for students of taxpayers and Fairfax County (US) citizens. The impact to the Budget is apparent when the FCPS FY2016 Advertised Budget Presentation made to the Board of Supervisors on February, 27, 2015 is reviewed. Please note, in particular, slides 5 and 6 which illustrate the student population growth of an additional 13,171 in just 5 years -- propelling FCPS to the 10th largest school system in the nation -- and that 6,704 students are projected to receive the most intensive ESOL services, an increase of 22%, or 1,222 students in the same period.

The demonstrable student population growth combined with the rapidly changing composition of the incoming student population requires a different view of the FCPS budget than just a few years ago, adding far more complexity in educating students in Fairfax County. The following are additional notable highlights:

Your concerns and inquiry regarding about fiscal stewardship and the taxpayers' burden are greatly appreciated. The work of the FCPS Board on fiscal matters and in concert with our peers on the Board of Supervisors, however, depends wholly and substantially on the composition of the FCPS Board. As you will note, the amendment Ms. McLaughlin (Braddock) and I offered passed by a single vote. That means 5 of 12 Board members wouldn’t even vote to take the position that Fairfax should seek remuneration from state and federal government, not actually seek such financial assistance, but merely state that it is the position of the Board in our Legislative Agenda. It is important to note that all 3 at-large Board members voted against the amendment. Regardless, I will continue to pursue what I believe it right on behalf of the taxpayers and citizens of the County.

I am pleased to report, however, that my persistent advocacy did finally lead to the recent agreement of the Board to send a letter to our Congressional members requesting financial relief; a copy of those letters is attached for your convenience. While the Board's eventual agreement to send the letters is gratifying, I have virtually no expectation that Congressional action is forthcoming to actually provide relief for ORR's impact to Fairfax County Public Schools and our taxpayers.

Again, thank you for your understanding of the importance of this issue for our residents, parents and taxpayers. It is the engagement of and discussion amongst well-informed residents with their friends, neighbors, colleagues and family which will enhance and improve the education of the public about how such issues relate to direct impact here locally.

Please let me know if there are any questions or if additional assistance is needed.

Best regards,

Elizabeth


Board Forum Topic: "Unaccompanied, Undocumented and Homeless Youth"

Elizabeth L. Schultz
Fairfax County School Board
Springfield District
Elizabeth.Schultz@fcps.edu
Voicemail: 571-423-1080

Melissa K. Fields, Executive Administrative Assistant Fairfax County School Board Office
Phone: 571-423-1069
FAX: 571-423-1067