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Letter to the Editor: District 308 'Using Faulty Cost Analysis to Destroy Dual Language'

Feb 19, 2015 05:09PM ● Published by Steven Jack

District 308 officials are using a faulty cost analysis to destroy the Dual Language program. Could your child’s educational experience be the next target of an agenda-driven decision-making process?

The administration is giving the school board two options for overhauling the district’s English Language Learners program. The first, supported by parents, would expand the existing Dual Language program in which English- and Spanish-speaking children are in the same classes. The second, recommended by Superintendent Matthew Wendt, would remove English speakers from the classroom. 

Administrators claim keeping the two groups together would cost $1.6 million. I examined their numbers, because I work in finance, and what I found was unsettling. They overestimated the cost by at least $1.4 million.

Wendt argues his program choice would require 25 teachers for 562 Spanish-speaking students. He also claims that 70 teachers would be needed for an expanded DL program comprised of 1,124 students. (562 Spanish and 562 English.) 

How could 562 Spanish speakers require 25 teachers under Wendt’s plan, while 562 English speakers require 45 teachers – nearly double the amount -- under the parents’ preferred option? (70-45=25) The assertion is impossible. 

In addition, removing English speakers from these classrooms will not remove them from the district. They still need teachers. After that is factored in, based on the district’s assertions, we find the true cost of expanding DL is equivalent to the pay of three teachers, or about $200,000. I could even make a case that an expanded DL program would save $650,000, depending on where the program is housed. 

Administrators created a scenario for Dual Language in which all 1,124 students would go to Hunt Club.  Hunt Club's capacity is 900. How could Hunt Club house the entire DL program as well as students from the neighborhood? It would be impossible. So why use Hunt Club in the expansion model? The answer is obvious: to mislead the school board into making a decision in line with a predetermined agenda.

Under the state’s “90 percent rule,” ELL students must be placed in slightly smaller classes. For example, if a mainstream class at a particular school has 25 students, an ELL class at that same school must have no more than 22 students. In creating their DL expansion model, administrators used Hunt Club’s relatively small class sizes to calculate how many DL teachers would be needed districtwide. This inflated the number. In reality, an expanded DL program would need to be housed at multiple locations with larger class sizes.

In a system with integrity, when options are presented, numbers are based on what is likely to happen, not on impossible scenarios. Taxpayers should be concerned about this flawed, one-sided analysis. The goal should be to help students succeed, not drive an agenda. This calls into question the integrity of every decision made.

How much money does this 
practice cost our community? We need to hold leaders accountable and demand these tactics stop. Let’s make sound decisions based on what is best for students and taxpayers.

Dominick Cirone,
Education, News, Opinion

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