TESOL Strongly Opposes Misguided Educational Flexibility Proposal (July 2011)

The introduction of the State and Local Funding Flexibility Act (H.R. 2445) in the House of Representatives on July 7 is of serious concern to TESOL International Association. The proposal, part of the plan in the House to incrementally reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), would provide states and school districts authority to use federal funds in an unrestricted manner that could come at the expense of English language learners (ELLs) and low-income students.

The original purpose of ESEA was to reduce the achievement gaps between students by providing each child with a fair and equal opportunity to a quality education. Funding programs under ESEA such as Title I have provided significant resources to address gaps in educational access and opportunity for low-income and disadvantaged students. More specifically, Title III under ESEA—although regularly underfunded—provides to states much needed resources specifically targeted to assist in serving the needs of their ELLs.

Unfortunately, this bill would create a loophole that could allow for the diversion of federal funds targeted for these student populations, thereby undermining the original purpose and spirit of ESEA. This would have a devastating impact on ELLs in particular, who are still chronically underserved. With states and districts already facing significant reductions in their school budgets, the impact of this legislation on the most vulnerable students would be compounded.

Recently released data from the Office for Civil Rights has shown that ELLs, low-income students, and minority students still do not have equal access to a quality education; HR 2445 would only exacerbate the problem. TESOL strongly urges Congress to oppose this measure.

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Founded in 1966, Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc. (TESOL) is a professional community of educators, researchers, administrators and students committed to advancing excellence in English language teaching for speakers of other languages worldwide. With more than 12,000 members representing 156 countries, TESOL fosters the exchange of ideas, research and peer-to-peer knowledge, and provides expertise, resources and a powerful voice on issues affecting the profession. Through professional development programs, its international conference, special interest groups and publications, TESOL engages tens of thousands of professionals to collaborate globally and create a world of opportunity for millions of people of all ages who want to learn English.