Focus on Education
2:54 pm
Fri March 14, 2014

A need for funding for English language programs in Buffalo Schools

If the State Legislature approves the Assembly's budget increase for education aid -- it could mean more funding for Buffalo Public Schools. 

Assemblyman Sean Ryan of Buffalo urges lawmakers to approve the increase to help schools that have a high population of non-English speaking students -- like Lafayette High School. 

State Assemblyman Sean Ryan at Lafayette principal urging state lawmakers to approve funding that would help with English immersion programs for non-English speaking students.Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen BuckleyEdit | Remove

Ryan was joined by Lafayette High School Principal Naomi Cerre, and Donna Pepero of Journey’s End Refugee Services. 

The school is filled with student refugees and English language learners.

“Schools like Lafayette need more state resources to ensure refugees and ESL students are given an opportunity to succeed,” Ryan added. “Nearly 70% of students at Lafayette are ESL students, and 40% of those students are classified as Students with Interrupted Formal Education. These SIFE students are often refugees who have little to no formal education before coming to the United States. As Lafayette is working to implement a plan to provide English language immersion programs for these students, New York State should provide additional funding to help with this process. I am hopeful that the final state budget we pass in a few weeks will make this funding a top priority.” 

Principal Naomi Cerre said they are desperate need of resources and support to customize learning for their students.  Cerre said they plan to present to the school board .

"New program design would include an English immersion program. which would give our students an opportunity to actually build up their language fluency," said Cerre. "Language acquisition takes anywhere from five to seven years."

Lafayette is among several failing schools in Buffalo. It is currently working on a turn around plan Johns Hopkins. But 70-percent of students attending Lafayette don't speak English.  40-percent are refugees who have little or no formal education. 

Inside a classroom at Lafayette High School where English Language Learners and Refugee students are learning.
Inside a classroom at Lafayette High School where English Language Learners and Refugee students are learning.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Pepero, education director at Journey’s End Refugee Services said the students are ready to learn.

"One thing you need to know about refugee students is they're the most highly motivated, respectful individuals to their education, and the amount of money that it is going to cost per child to put into their education -- we are going to benefit tenfold on the other side," said Pepero.