Expand Support for ELL

The Community Legislative Action Team recommends an increase in weighted English Language Learner (ELL) funding to .39, in accordance with evidence-based practice and as recommended by the 2013 task force report on ELL education in Iowa.


  • English Language Learners (ELL) are the fastest growing group of students in the Des Moines Public School District, representing more than 22% of the student population.
  • The District serves more than 7,300 ELL students, with 156 committed teachers and staff, at 50 different sites in the community.
  • The diverse student population represents 106 different nations and speaks 200 different languages and dialects.
  • Since 1990, the ELL population has grown by more than 700% while overall student population has remained stable.
  • The ELL population in the Des Moines Public School District accounts for nearly a quarter of the ELL student population statewide.

Why This is a Good Investment

  • Better Prepares Students. Increasing the weighted funding will improve services provided to ELL students and help develop their proficiency in the English language so they can be successful in the educational setting.
  • Lower Student-Teacher Ratio: ELL enrollment at DMPS has increased by an average of nearly 300 students per year over the past 10 years, a trend expected to continue for the foreseeable future.
  • Expand Intensive Language Centers: Intensive language programs are particularly important to support immigrant and refugee students who have little or no literacy in their home language

Why This is urgent

  • ELL students would benefit from additional time given the amount of learning required to achieve proficiency in a second language.
  • The belief that children immersed in the English language will accelerate proficiency does not align with research.
  • We believe that children benefit from learning in their primary language before a secondary language can be effectively taught. This process takes time.
  • DMPS continues to enroll refugee students from around the world. The critical needs of these students, in addition to learning English, are multiple and resource intensive.
  • The ELL student graduation rate in the state is 82.9%, compared with an overall graduation rate of 90.8%. Additional resources are necessary to close this gap.