Press Release

As state leaders begin to finalize this year’s school aid budget, education advocates or organizations are urging state leaders to prioritize the needs of English Learners — a group of students who have often been overlooked for far too long. Advocates are asking the legislature to double the current funding for English Learners this year and commit to fully funding these students’ needs.

The organizations include ACCESS, Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation, Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, Michigan Association for Bilingual Education (MABE), Michigan Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (MI TESOL), The Education Trust-Midwest and Welcome Plan West Michigan.

“Michigan has a long history of failing to fully support English Learners, and that must change,” the organizations stated in a letter to the legislature.

Their recommendations include:

  • Double the funding for English Learners in the FY 25 school aid budget to $80 million. This will get us on a path to fully fund the weights in the law within 5 years.
  • Increase the weighted funding formula to at least 80%-100% to be more aligned with what leading states practice.
  • Expand the funding formula so more students who have not yet mastered English receive additional funding and supports. As it stands now, only students who score at the lowest three levels on the test taken annually by English Learners – the WIDA ACCESS – receive the weighted funding. The organizations support expanding the funding weights so students scoring in levels 4-6 receive additional funding, as well.
  • Conduct a deeper landscape analysis of the profile of Michigan English Learners including languages spoken, distribution of English Learner students across the state, and available services for English Learner students.
  • “English Learners are just as smart and capable as their native English-speaking peers. They deserve the same opportunities, but they need additional resources,” the organizations urged state leaders in their letter. “Now is the time to begin investing in these students. We urge you to prioritize funding for English Learners in this year’s budget.”

Here is why fully supporting English Learners is urgent:

  • Michigan’s immigrant population is one of the few areas of growth for our state, having grown by 16.1% since 2010, according to an analysis from the Michigan League for Public Policy.
  • In Michigan, 14% of children are considered to be part of immigrant families.
  • Michigan’s English Learner population climbed from about 60,000 in the 2010-11 school year to nearly 100,000 students today. At the same time, the overall K-12 student population has dropped in Michigan.

On the 2023 M-STEP, only about one-fourth of English Learner students were proficient in third grade reading. And worse still, this dropped significantly since 2019, when a third were proficient. Test results also show a worrying trend as these students proficiency in both math and reading decreases dramatically from third grade to seventh grade.

Additionally, only 75% of English Learners graduate within 4 years. This is below the statewide average of 82%. English Learners face challenges to their learning, including economic hardship, under-resourced schools, lack of ESL/bilingual certified teachers, and less rigor in their schools and classrooms. That is on top of trying to learn English and master their coursework at the same time.

State educators and school leaders are doing everything they can, but the reality for many years our state has drastically underfunded the needs of English Learners. Current state law only allocates additional weights of 1.7% to 15.4% based on a child’s English language proficiency.

Compared to states like Maryland, which is phasing in a weight of 85% more, and Georgia which now allocates an astounding 160% more funding to English Learners, Michigan has long neglected these students. In fact, among 31 states with similar funding formulas, Michigan ranked 26th for our English Learner funding, according to a 2023 analysis by EdTrust-Midwest.

Last year, the state made the largest investment for English Learners in recent memory and set new funding weights of 35%, 50% and 75%. Yet these weights were not fully funded. To fully fund them, Michigan would need to invest an additional $240 million annually.