Boston saw rise in Haitian students last year

Boston Public Schools didn’t get additional funds from the federal government to help handle an influx of Haitian students after last year’s earthquake, but they’ve been able to accommodate most of the students, school officials said. Students were placed at the Kenny Elementary School in Dorchester, the Taylor Elementary School in Mattapan, the Community Academy of Science and Health in Hyde Park, and the West Roxbury Education Complex.

The school system has drawn on the English Language Learners program, which serves limited English proficient students.

“We believe that we will continue to invest in those students who have not learned English,” Superintendent Carol Johnson told ethnic media and community reporters in a roundtable interview last week.

When school officials met with the Haitian community last summer, one of the concerns was getting an advocate for them in the school system’s central office. School officials recruited an assistant superintendent to serve in that role, she said. They’ve also been translating documents so families can understand the material schools put out.

English Language Learners make up 28 percent of the 56,000 students in the system. The ethnicities of the students range from Haitian, to Hispanic, Vietnamese and Chinese, Cape Verdean, and a growing Somali population.

Separately, Johnson discussed how school officials are phasing in over the next two years a new formula aimed at streamlining how they calculate and funnel funds to the city’s schools.

The current funding formula is based on the number of programs, as well as teachers and staff. The new formula, which Johnson said would lead to “greater equality” across the school system, will be phased in over two years, because of some “hardships” that it could create for some schools. A similar formula is already used by the city’s public charter schools and in New York City, Philadelphia and San Francisco.

The proposed formula, referred to as “weighted student funding,” is still being refined, since several principals pointed out to the school department that there are some errors in it, Johnson said.

Every school will receive $200,000 to cover the costs of a principal or headmaster and office staff. On top of that, schools will be given a certain amount for each student, with more money coming if the school has more students from low-income families; students who are not fluent in English, also known as English Language Learners; special education students; and students who are not graduating on time.

Along with a proposal outlining the new formula, Johnson last week submitted to the School Committee an $829.5 million budget, an $8.1 million increase from the current fiscal year that the city is covering.

School officials are also looking to streamline transportation costs, and the school system is depending on receiving $10.1 million in federal funds from an education jobs bill passed last year.

Before the School Committee is expected to vote on her proposal on March 23, department officials are holding four hearings on the proposed budget. One hearing is at Dorchester’s Burke High School at 6 p.m. on March 15. The others are on March 2 at English High School; March 3 at Irving Middle School in Roslindale, and March 22 at East Boston High School.