The speaker of the City Council, Christine Quinn, is warning that high school graduation rates could fall in coming years if funding is reduced for helping students who are learning English.
"We need to know and admit that we are not succeeding in helping" English language learners "to the degree that we should," Ms. Quinn said yesterday at a roundtable discussion on education in Manhattan organized by the New York Immigration Coalition.
English language learners are students who come from households in which a language other than English is spoken and who enter school with English language skills below proficiency standards.
Ms. Quinn cited as cause for concern statistics from the Department of Education showing that 26.2% of English language learners graduate from high school within four years, versus 61.1% of students who are proficient in English.
Initiatives to help English language learners catch up with their English-proficient classmates are crucial, Ms. Quinn said, and should be a priority in future budget negotiations, even as the city faces mounting deficits. She pointed to a $7 million initiative this year that provides matching funds to schools that implement programs aimed at improving English proficiency as one positive step toward addressing the problem.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Education, Maibe Gonzalez-Fuentes, said the city is making English language learners a priority, citing the $7 million initiative as well as a policy of providing additional funding to schools with a higher percentage of such students.
"We obviously want to improve, but we are making significant progress and going in the right direction," she said in an interview.