Metro Teachers Push For Funding For English Language Learners

Posted at 4:53 PM, Apr 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-26 20:33:33-04

Metro Nashville Teachers have requested more funding for English language services in schools, saying they have become vital services in Nashville schools.

At John Overton High School there are roughly 500 students from other countries who first enrolled in classes with little to no ability to write, speak, and understand English. At Overton, nine teachers are tasked with helping those students learn the language they'll be expected to know in traditional classrooms.

"My classes are very large," said English Language teacher Michéle Gatlin. "My smallest class is 30, but my largest class is 35, which is the cap."

On April 10, the Director of Metro Schools Dr. Shawn Joseph announced his plan to ramp up EL resources by adding teachers, translators, and after-school tutors. The plan comes with a $5.7 million price tag.

Mayor Megan Barry has already made clear that Joseph will not receive enough funding to fulfill his $902.8 million budget request. But teachers say EL services in Nashville schools are at a breaking point.

"To have such a large number of students for one teacher, I just can’t reach them all. I can't give them what they need," Gatlin said. "My job is to teach them English. Listening, reading, speaking, and writing. We definitely need smaller classes and that is more funding."

There are success stories that prove Metro's EL services are effective. Overton senior Jeannine Mbabazi moved to Nashville from Rwanda in 2013 when she was 15 years old.

"When I came, I didn't know anything," Mbabazi sad. "It was really hard for me."

But less than four years later, Mbabazi is set to graduate in two weeks with distinction. She wants to be a civil engineer and plans to attend TSU.

She said other students need to be afforded the same opportunity to be successful.

"We need more teachers," Mbabazi said. "Their work is really hard and they need more help."

Right now, Metro's funding request is in the hands of Mayor Megan Barry as she works to put together her annual budget.