Migrant education seeks direct funding

By Nancy Gutierrez

The Migrant Education program in the Lindsay Unified School District is in the process of pursuing funding directly from the state.

Currently funds for migrant education are given to the state by the federal government. The state then distributes money to regional areas comprised of one or more counties The counties then distribute funds to districts based on migrant student populations. LUSD is located in Region VIII which includes Tulare and Kings Counties. There are approximately 23,000 migrant students enrolled in the program in both counties. If LUSD is permitted by the state to become its own region it would receive $300,000 more than it was previously receiving.

"There is the financial benefit and there will be more local control," Migrant Education Director Jim Sullivan said.

The migrant program provides services to children and youth from ages 3 to 21, whose education has been interrupted in the past three years because of the need for migrant parents to relocate to other areas in order to find agricultural, seasonal work to support their families.

Region VIII provides supplementary educational, health and family services by developing agreements with school districts. Currently, 54 school districts have an active Migrant Program. The Tulare County Office of Education Migrant program works in cooperation with the individual districts to supplement the district's educational program and to promote each migrant student's progress in school.

Supplemental Services are provided in various ways including: health services; health education; pre-kindergarten classes; out-of-school youth (18 to 21 years of age); counseling; tutoring; enrichment and fine arts programs; extended day, evening, weekend and summer school programs; math programs for students & families; outdoor education -- SCICON; intensive social services referrals; mentoring; intensive reading/math groups, secondary education; and parent education literacy centers. Migrant parents are seen as an important part of the education of a child and are included as an integral part of the program. District, Regional and State parent advisory councils play an active role in providing and advocating services to children.

The district makes up a large portion of the region VIII population with 1500 migrant students in LUSD. At a LUSD board meeting Sullivan provided the school board with information regarding the progress of migrant students in the district and in the county. His data showed that in fourth, fifth and sixth grade the language arts testing scores of LUSD migrant students were above the county and state level. In eighth grade migrant student scores jumped even higher with a mean scaled score of 306, while the county and state average scores were at 297 and 293 points respectively. The county and state average also includes scores by Lindsay students. In high school results remain the same. Lindsay students continued to average much higher scores on standardized tests while the county average struggled to meet the state average. Results were similar with math scores. Sullivan showed board members that LUSD tests more of its students than the county and state do. Lindsay High School tested 20 percent of its sophomore migrant students while Tulare County tested 4 percent and the state tested 1 percent.

The migrant parents in LUSD agreed that direct funding would better benefit their students. At a July meeting 89 percent of the close to 100 migrant parents voted in favor of pursuing direct funding. Sullivan said the group has already met with state officials and learned what it actually means to be funded directly by the state.

Sullivan said with the increased authority comes increased responsibility. The district must carefully document their services and manage their funding responsibly.

"This way we will service the students in a way that the parents perceive [as helpful]," Sullivan said.

The district still must complete a large application process, and have yet to receive the application from the state. Once they receive and complete the application they must present it to the state for approval. If all goes well LUSD will be its own region in the migrant program by July 2005. LUSD would be the first district in the county to receive direct funding.

The next migrant education parent meeting is at 6:30 p.m. on March 17 at Washington Elementary School.

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