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Lawsuit Threatened over Funding for ELLs in Nevada

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Civil rights organizations in Nevada are raising concerns about the scant funding for English Language Learners attending the state’s public schools, and are investigating a possible lawsuit against the state.

The Las Vegas Sun reports that the ACLU of Nevada, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and Hispanics in Politics have met to discuss the situation. Hispanics in Politics president Fernando Romero went as far as to say that Latino students have become “collateral damage,” CBS reported, after funding for ELLs was cut by legislators last session.

The discussions come on the heels of a lawsuit filed just last week by the ACLU against the state of California on behalf of six ELL students and their families, alleging that the state has not adequately educated its ELL student population.

However, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval has proposed adding $29 million for ELLs to the budget for use over the next two years.

According to a recent study by the UNLV Lincy Institute, Nevada has severely underfunded services for ELL students. Clark County schools reported serving 53,073 students in its ELL program in February 2013, but 94,771 are defined as ELLs. The report says that Nevada is one of only eight states that does not allocate specific funds to the ELL population (beyond regular base per-student funding). Schools therefore rely on federal funding for additional money.

“The lack of a state vision and action plan for ELL education is especially problematic in Nevada, where despite its higher numbers of ELLs, has no funding mechanism for ELL education nor standards to guide the educational goals and achievement of its ELL students,” the report charges.

According to the study, the Miami-Dade Schools in Florida provides funding of $4,677 per ELL student, while in the Clark County schools in Las Vegas provides just $119 per student.

Just last week, the ACLU, Asian Pacific American Legal Center and the law firm of Latham & Watkins LLP sued the state of California for its alleged failure to provide an adequate education to some 20,000 ELLs. They allege that about 250 school districts say they are providing no to few services to the students. The state has responded that it is committed to making sure ELLs receive appropriate instruction and help.

What sort of funding does your state provide to ELLs? In addition, how are school districts actually using the funding? Are ELL students receiving language services?