- Associated Press - Monday, July 20, 2015

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Officials at Lincoln Public Schools have budgeted $1.2 million to hire additional teachers for an influx of students who speak little English.

Over the past year, an increase of students from Burma, Iraq and Mexico drove up the number of English-language learners by 35 percent to a record 2,917 students, according to officials. Those students are from 44 countries and speak 63 languages, the district’s director of federal programs, Linda Hix, told the Lincoln Journal Star (https://bit.ly/1Dq2Yzj ).

The school district had to move teachers around and increase class sizes after 306 students came from foreign countries between March and May last year. Although the district likes to keep basic English-language learning classes at about 12 students, some of them nearly doubled to between 20 and 22 students.

“Our teachers did a great job of making it work,” Hix said.

Four teachers were hired during the year to help with the additional students. The $1.2 million requested in the proposed 2015-16 budget would pay to keep those four teachers on staff, and allow the district to hire nine more teachers and five more bilingual liaisons to work with families.

Growth in the city’s refugee population has been driven by world events, including violence caused by the Islamic State group, Hix said.

Of the 866 English-language learners who came to Lincoln in the past year, 264 students came from Iraq and 246 from Mexico. A significant amount also has come from Burma and refugee camps in Thailand, Hix said. Other countries represented in the student body include Vietnam, Russia, Ukraine and Sudan.

“We know (English-language learners) are part of the future of Lincoln,” Hix said.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com

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