Updated, 3:54 p.m.: PDF added.
NORWALK, Conn. — In calculating the cost of educating the unprecedented numbers of immigrant students enrolled – and still enrolling – in Norwalk Public Schools, it matters greatly which yardstick is used.
At last week’s Board of Education meeting, Superintendent of Schools Adamowski used one; Board member Barbara Meyer-Mitchell referred to another. The resulting discussion was long on confusion for onlookers.
Adamowski’s yardstick is known as the Student Based Budget, the cost of educating a child apart from related expenses such as administrative overhead, athletic fields, electricity, and the like. By that measure, you can ballpark the cost of educating 100 additional English Language Learners at $1.2 million.
Meyer-Mitchell, on the other hand, appears to have used the Per-Pupil Expenditure yardstick, which includes the aforementioned ancillary costs. Those added expenses put the price for educating the same 100 ELL students at an estimated $2 million.
Either way, NPS has had “a fairly large influx of students” from Guatemala and Nicaragua registering since the first day of school, Adamowski said at Tuesday’s Board meeting. The district has 11,745 students, about 100 more than it did at the end of the last school year. That doesn’t include another 127 students who have enrolled but have not yet gotten their required physicals and immunizations.
Of those 127, 52 were confirmed ELL students, according to a document provided by Wilcox-Williams. Another 27 appointments had been scheduled at the ELL Welcome Center[n1] through Friday, with the students’ status to be determined.
A complete enrollment report is due on Oct. 1. BoE Chairman Mike Barbis did not reply to a Saturday email asking for an update.
Adamowski said the cost of educating ELLs is probably one third again as much as the student-based budget, which varies by grade level. The 2019-20 approved budget lists SBB as follows:
- Elementary School: $8,848
- Middle School: $8,691
- High School: $8,287
By comparison, the per-pupil expenditure is between $17,000 and $18,000.
Adamowski said last week that “we’re estimating 350” ELL students. “On top of that is simply our normal enrollment growth between June and September consistent with our enrollment projections. If you add those two together it’s 450, that’s really the number we have to be dealing with.”
“The 350 increase in English Language Learners was the number projected over last year,” Wilcox-Williams wrote in an email. “Some students are in the system, while enrollment for others is still pending, so they may not yet be in the count. The numbers are still developing, as health forms and other documents get processed.”
Mayor Harry Rilling said he has contacted U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-Greenwich), U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) to request more federal funding to cover the costs of educating these new immigrants.
Rilling said Sunday that he will also be speaking with state Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, in addition to “our entire State delegation as well as our Governor.” Such discussions “must be ongoing and frequent.”
However, “My first outreach was to Congressman Himes as this is not just a Norwalk or Connecticut issue, but a National phenomenon,” Rilling said.
Duff did not answer a Friday email from NancyOnNorwalk.
Percentages of ELLs
The Beginning of Year enrollment report provided by Wilcox-Williams also shows percentages of ELL students at each school. Most notable are these elementary school statistics:
- Brookside: 26.37%
- Jefferson: 27%
- Kendall: 33.86%
- Tracey: 27.55%
“Think about that for a minute, that’s, you know, that’s one out of every four students sitting in those classrooms, that is learning English,” Adamowski said. “That, our view is, is too high a ratio for any school.”
Retooling is necessary and will be discussed in November, he said.
“We know that the most effective method is dual language instruction, the least effective is ESL (English as a Second Language), throughout the state,” Adamowski said. “There are only four dual language schools in the entire state of Connecticut, we happen to have one. We will probably need over the years to develop a second school or a second program on the other side of town.”
The Silvermine dual language program could be extended to West Rocks Middle School, Adamowski said at the Board’s retreat in July.
Kendall was described as 35.6% ELL in January.
Finance Committee Chairman Bryan Meek said nothing during last week’s meeting about the increased cost. Instead, he asked, “Is this an urban phenomenon? Or is this across all 19 school districts?”
“No, no, there were only a few places where an immigrant can live,” Adamowski replied. “So those would be the cities where you have housing that can accommodate immigrants or where there’s a family already living, but it’s, you know, you can’t live in New Canaan or Westport or any of those places because there’s no housing at a reasonable level. They’re very exclusionary. And so, you know, I think that’s one of the issues our state is facing that this becomes an urban issue in an urban phenomena.”