While the press has rightly taken note of this population boom, the most important statistic of 2012-2013 that no one is mentioning is that half of our incoming kindergarteners – and over 47 percent of our entire student population – speak a language other than English at home. In the coming years, the budgetary and cultural implications of this demographic transformation will be staggering.
English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) is the fasted growing program for students with additional needs in the school system, ahead of the free- and reduced-price meals (FRM), special education, and general education populations. This school year, 32,255 students are projected to receive ESOL instruction, an increase of 8,427 (or 35 percent) from 2012. As a result, FCPS has budgeted for 159 new ESOL teachers. These instructional costs add up to an average cost of $3,095 for each ESOL student on top of the average per pupil cost of $12,820. If there was ever any doubt that the financial pressures on school system budgets in Northern Virginia are far removed from counties elsewhere in the state, these statistics are our proof.
While this demographic transformation will be expensive, its cultural impact on our students will be important to watch. Indeed, at home our students speak more than 160 languages, with Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese, Arabic and Chinese rounding out the top five most-common.
Language Number of Students Percent of Total Language Minority
1 SPANISH 33,629 42
2 KOREAN 6,252 8
3 VIETNAMESE 5,014 6
4 ARABIC 4,964 6
5 MANDARIN 3,531 4
6 URDU 3,354 4
7 FARSI 2,122 3
8 AMHARIC 1,861 2
9 HINDI 1,451 2
10 TELUGU 1,409 2
Unfortunately, these questions assume we will have the funds to pursue these initiatives. Instead, we will probably spend most of our time keeping our heads above the rising tide of per pupil costs while trying to convince our state lawmakers that this new demographic normal is not just a Fairfax issue -- it is a Virginia issue.