Publication Date

Winter 2017


CERPS Working Paper #2017-1


Despite the rapid increase in enrollment of students who speak a language other than English at home, little prior research examines whether school districts receive adequate funding for instructional programs for emergent bilinguals. We show that prior to the Great Recession, districts with greater proportions of students classified as English language learners (ELL) received approximately 10 percent more funding than otherwise similar low-ELL districts. However, recessionary budget cuts disproportionately impacted high-ELL districts, effectively removing resource advantages. Cross-state analyses suggest that states using direct reimbursement methods and those with smaller ELL student weights in their formula funding tend to have less equitable finance systems. Finally, we draw on data from Texas to show that high-ELL districts actually levy higher local property taxes, but have lower property values. Despite greater taxing effort, disparities in local property values prevent high-ELL districts from receiving an equitable share of state funding.