- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 1, 2007

RICHMOND — The U.S. Department of Education has detailed how much money Virginia school divisions could lose if they disobey a law that requires children who are trying to learn English to take the same reading tests as their native-speaking peers, state officials said on Wednesday.

The measure, a provision of the No Child Left Behind law, targets students who are the least proficient in English. Several school boards have expressed their frustration with the measure, saying that it is unfair to use the state Standards of Learning test for grade-level reading skills of immigrant students who can barely understand English.

Raymond Simon, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, told state education officials that the federal government could withhold some or all of school divisions’ Title I funding if they use an unapproved substitute reading test for students with limited English proficiency. Title I schools receive funds to serve children from low-income families and are the focus of most of the education act’s measures.

In a letter dated Tuesday to state Board of Education President Mark E. Emblidge, Mr. Simon enclosed a chart that detailed the amount each school division received in fiscal 2006. Leading the list is Fairfax County, with more than $17 million.

Mr. Simon made it “very clear that there are consequences if we do not comply with the law,” Mr. Emblidge told the board at its monthly business meeting. The state has sent letters to school divisions emphasizing that they must comply.

Virginia received $2.1 million in Title I funds in fiscal 2006.

Several school boards, including Fairfax, Prince William and Arlington countiies and Fairfax City, have passed resolutions protesting the federal mandate.

Fairfax County received $17.5 million in Title I funds last year; Prince William, $6 million; Arlington, $2.6 million; and Fairfax City, $208,000.

Libby Garvey, chairwoman of the Arlington County School Board, said it’s not clear whether more boards will continue to oppose the policy.

“The question is whether they say, ‘This is crazy and we’re not going to do it,’ ” Mrs. Garvey said. What Arlington and other school divisions do “may depend on what legal advice we get.”

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