The $445 million Fiscal Year 2024-2025 supplemental budget passed by the Maine Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Janet Mills in July will direct $3.5 million in state funding to school districts in order to assist English Language Learner (ELL) students.
The $3.5 million will go to the ELL Hardship Fund, which was established last year by the Legislature, and will be distributed across several school districts, with the funds becoming available at the end of October.
The Portland School District will receive an additional $784,174.25 from the ELL Hardship Fund to hire staff and provide services to ELL students, according to a Friday press release from House Democrats.
“Since last September, the Portland School System has experienced a significant increase in the number of students needing ELL services,” said Rep. Michael Brennan (D-Portland), the House chair of the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee.
“This additional funding will allow Portland to hire staff and provide important services to assist these students. However, the city isn’t alone. There are school districts across the state that are working hard to meet the influx of new students, and the Legislature recognized their efforts and stepped up to help,” Rep. Brennan said. “This funding will have a major impact, and I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues to continue funding the program in the coming years.”
Portland Mayor Kate Snyder revealed in a radio interview on WGAN in July that over 1,600 asylum seeking individuals had arrived in Maine since this January.
Many of the asylum seekers, including the approximately 80 families who will be forced to leave their temporary sheltering arrangements at the Portland Exposition Building later this week, do not speak English.
Other school districts receiving the ELL funds include:
- Lewiston: $630,689.35
- South Portland: $302,065.63
- Saco: $110,009.94
- Freeport: $109,468.98
- Westbrook: $93,365.58
- Brunswick: $50,245.57
Those funds will complement the budgets of school districts, many of which have had to increase budgets and ask for higher property taxes in order to accommodate increased need for ELL programming.
The 2024-2025 budget also includes $15 million to extend Gov. Mills’ free community college education initiative, $25 million in start-up funding for Maine’s paid family and medical leave program, and $12 million in one-time funding to the Emergency Housing Relief Fund, which will expand support for homeless shelters and individuals and families in transitional housing.