Education Issues

When looking at the overall issue of education within the State of South Carolina, it is important to consider the impact of the growth of the Hispanic/Latino population.  According to the South Carolina Department of Education, during the 1998-99 school year, districts reported 3,226 Limited English Proficiency (LEP) students.  During the 1999-2000 school year, there were some 5,528 LEP students enrolled in the 86 school districts.  Of this number, 4,123 were Hispanic and spoke Spanish as their primary language, while the remaining 1,405 students spoke languages representing 58 variations.  In a 2000-2001 survey, districts reported 5,525 LEP students according to the State Department of Education. At present, these numbers may appear small, but these numbers currently add strain to the already limited educational resources of the districts.  However, as the Hispanic/Latino population increases, the State Department of Education and local school districts must adequately prepare themselves to address the specific educational needs of LEP students.

After a group process of determining educational issues, problems, barriers, and concerns, the following priority areas were identified: 1) language barriers, 2) barriers to services, and 3) poor communication within the system.

With regards to the education system, it is important to understand that without a good grasp of the English language, it is very difficult to enroll a child in school at any age.  Language barriers hinder parents from understanding the need to provide early education either at home or through day care programs.  Language barriers hinder parents from addressing early immunization and other healthcare issues that must be taken care of before a child can be enrolled in public schools.

Barriers to services, such as some school districts requiring that a child have a Social Security Card in order to enroll in school or that they must provide their own transportation to get to services especially established for LEP students, and other issues must be addressed from a statewide prospective, as well as by local school district policy.  This leads to a need for better communication within the educational system to ensure that LEP students across the state obtain quality education that will assist them in becoming productive individuals.

These issues and others must be addressed or they will continue to cause interruptions in the learning process.  Education is key to alleviating poverty and deprivation.  Persons immigrating into the United States and to South Carolina will develop into two very distinct kinds of people if attention is not given to this matter.   Immigrants will either become drains on the welfare and tax systems within the state or if properly educated, they will develop into productive bilingual workers who will benefit the state’s economy and society.

After consulting with parents, teachers, students, outreach workers, community members, regional task force groups and staff from the State Department of Education, the Hispanic/Latino Ad Hoc Committee agrees that the following concerns need the attention of state leaders and Governor Jim Hodges.

Educational Issues:

  1. Students are often required to travel long distances within the district to take advantage of programs entitled English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL).

  2. The grade assignment and placement of LEP students are often based on grouping students with LEP in the same class to serve as interpreters for each other.

  3. LEP students are often grouped together rather than on various grade levels, therefore students may actually be assigned to the wrong grade intentionally.

  4. ESOL programs often do not receive necessary funding.  In fact, these specialized programs do not receive any state funding.  This lack of funding leaves the programs understaffed and lacking necessary books and supplies.

  5.  Interpreters are often not available, and when they are, they often are not utilized for parent conferences and for special education meetings.

  6. Schools often do not utilize state resources made available to them to meet the needs of LEP students, i.e. TransACT Software made available to the school districts by the State Department of Education for interpreting and translating forms and educational documents.  This results in:
a)  parents and students being unaware of school polices usually referenced in student handbooks that are written in English only;

b) parents of LEP children having difficulty completing emergency medical cards and other vital information that are required for each student;

c) school lunch cards used to qualify students for free and reduced lunch not being translated into other languages; therefore, students that would qualify often go hungry during the school day.  Additionally, the social security number is oftentimes requested but is not a requirement.  A simple explanation of the proper way to complete the card (even without a social security card) would allow many more children to qualify for the program.

  1. It is difficult for school systems to address special education requirements for LEP students because of the language barrier.  Therefore, the special education requirements are often ignored for LEP students.  There is a lack of adequate educational accommodation for Hispanic/Latino students who have unique educational needs.

  2. Currently, state testing programs do not allow students to be tested in their primary language.  Students can be exempted from testing for up to three years, which includes the exit exams, that are required for high school diplomas.  Therefore, parents, students and school officials postpone testing until it absolutely has to be done, which further exacerbates the problem, if the school district has done a poor job providing English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL).

  3. Language barriers often lead to retention and graduation postponement for LEP students.

  4. There is a general lack of bilingual personnel at the district level and in schools. There is a lack of bilingual home-school liaisons.

  5. Teachers and school districts are often unfamiliar with the cultural differences that exist among the Hispanic/Latino population. These differences often lead to misinformation and lack of clear communication. Some of the problems associated with this issue are:
a) cultural differences in how children's names are recorded interfere with consistent record-keeping;

b) there is a lack of adequate staff development on the local district level, which makes teachers and staff culturally insensitive to the specific needs of children; and

c) lack of teachers with Spanish speaking capabilities.
  1. School staffs are often not aware of the laws that surround the issues of ESOL and LEP students. Families enrolling children are often turned away by school staff who are not familiar with current enrollment requirements under the law.

  2. There is a lack of monitoring of school districts to ensure that all rights under the law are being afforded LEP students.

  3. Available services for LEP students vary by district. Many smaller, rural districts, which often have a high enrollment of Hispanic/Latino children, have difficulty adhering to the current requirements of the law. Because of this, they often ignore the laws choosing to address the need when complaints are made.

  4. Some school districts list available services on the State Department of Education Report Forms, but do not actually offer the services.

  5. The State Department of Education Office of Foreign Languages and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), which responds to inquiries related to Hispanic/Latino issues, is understaffed and not equipped to handle all of the intricacies of meeting the educational needs of Hispanic/Latino children.

  6. Families from other cultures often are not aware of the requirement that children attend school through age 17. As a result, parents fail to send children who have LEP.

  7. Lack of capturing information by race and ethnicity for the purposes of future reporting and research.

Advisory Recommendations - Education:

The members of the Ad Hoc Committee advise that the State Department of Education should:

  1. Provide appropriate and qualified staffing to coordinate policy matters, monitoring, reporting and technical assistance needed to serve the needs of seasonal, migrant, and resident Hispanic/Latino children.    
  2. Offer the following assistance:
a) advocacy services for Hispanic/Latino parents and their children;
b) link children with available educational services;

c) work with school districts to develop and utilize appropriate means and standards to address specific needs of Hispanic/Latino children to include promotion/retention policies for LEP students and appropriate use of translators;
d) educate school districts about the current availability of school forms in Spanish and the availability of computer software to translate district forms;

e) operate a hotline where teachers, parents, students and community members can anonymously report and request assistance for school districts who violate LEP requirements; and

 f) monitor school districts to ensure that all rights under the law are being afforded non-English speaking students.
  1. Address language barrier issues as required by the Accountability Act of 1996.

  2. Study culturally sensitive testing and investigate how other states have handled language barriers in regards to testing.

  3. Research and acquire appropriate assessments in Spanish.

  4. Require all school districts to distribute and use the TransACT software information among all schools within their districts.

  5. Monitor the use of the TransACT system with regards to all South Carolina school districts.

  6. Require all schools to have translated forms available for parents of LEP students in the school office.

  7. Require all school districts to encourage their teachers to utilize the TransACT system software, when appropriate.

  8. Require staff development and training for staff at the school district level related to addressing the needs of LEP students.

  9. Send school districts directives on how to consistently record children's names using a hyphen and audit schools periodically to ensure their compliance.

  10. Require all school districts to develop a Child Find Plan in order to determine the number of LEP children in the district and provide services for LEP students.

  11. Require all districts to follow the Child Find District Plans and to submit their plans to the State Department of Education.

  12. Increase funding for ESOL programs and for school districts that work with LEP students. Increase funding for all educational programs within school districts that develop and implement plans to address educational concerns for ESOL children.

  13. Investigate and follow-up on all complaints filed against Title I schools which receive federal funding to provide services to LEP students.

  14. Require school districts to have qualified bilingual staff to carry out home visits and to serve as school liaisons to meet the needs of families with LEP.

  15. Recommend that local districts consider the feasibility of having school registration for LEP students at one location so that community-based organizations serving this population can assist schools with this process and get appropriate information to parents.

  16. Recommend to school districts that for the first three months of school, additional part-time bilingual counselors be hired to insure that students get proper placement in classes early on and do not fall behind.

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