Revamping of Migrant Education Program Possible

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Advisory group released a report this month that recommends
changes
Gilroy – The Migrant Education Program here may receive some extra cash if California legislators push through a recommendation that would send the majority of funds to local school districts instead of regional centers.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office, a Sacramento-based non-partisan group that provides fiscal policy advice to legislators, released the “Improving Services for Migrant Students” report this month. Because migrant education is federally funded, the report only addresses changes that would alter the state’s implementation of the program.

Currently, the California Department of Education distributes 85 percent of migrant education funding to 23 regional centers; the remaining 15 percent finances administration and statewide initiatives.

Under the new model, 70 percent of the annual moneys would be allocated to school districts. The amount each district receives would be based on the number of students enrolled in the migrant education program.

“Any time you can direct the funds closer to where the children are, then you’re going to be better off,” Gilroy Unified School District Superintendent Edwin Diaz said. “We happen to be in a good region. We get good support from our county office but at the same time it also reduces our allocations by about 20 percent.”

The district’s Migrant Education Program received a total of $328,000 this school year to serve about 1,500 migrant students. Gilroy has a large number of highly mobile students, a group which would receive more funding under the new model, said GUSD Migrant Education Program Coordinator Lorena Tariba.

Rucker Elementary, Ascencion Solorsano Middle and Gilroy high schools receive the most migrant education funding because they have the largest number of highly mobile students.

For students to qualify for the program, their parents or guardians must be migrant workers in the fishing, dairy, lumber or agricultural industries and they must have moved to an area outside of district boundaries to obtain temporary seasonal work within the last three years. Students are eligible from the age of 3 until 21, and receive academic, health and family development services.

The report would also allow districts to carry-over 5 percent of funds from year-to-year. Currently, Tariba lives under the “use it or lose it” motto.

“You have no flexibility to carry-over, yet you want to spend 100 percent of funds,” she said.

In the last four years, the district has spent 95 to 100 percent of its funding, she said. If she was able to carry-over even that extra 5 percent, Tariba said she would allocate more money at the high school level and into the preschool program.

The LAO also recommends that the state department revise its per-pupil funding formula to emphasize federal and state program priorities and report back on the proposed revisions once the state has assessed its needs.

The group simply put the recommendations out there and it’s up to the state department of education and the legislators to latch on, said LAO Fiscal and Policy Analyst Rachel Ehlers, who also helped write the report.

“We’re here to advise and provide assistance as they need it,” Ehlers said. “We don’t lobby.”

Gilroy is part of the Region 1 Migrant Education Program which covers six counties including Santa Clara, San Benito, Alameda, San Mateo, the city of San Franciso and the northern portion of Santa Cruz. The latest report revealed that the local region served about 22,000 students in 2005, about 1,500 of them in Gilroy, said Region 1 MEP Director Brad Doyel.

Although a revamped program would mean less money for his regional site, Doyel said the recommendations are definitely a step in the right direction.

Doyel said the changes would place the regional office in a “better position,” making them more of an oversight agency “as opposed to running the whole show.”