English Language Learners and Public Education in Utah (2012)

Executive Summary

Click here to read the full report in PDF.

Utah has been one of the fastest growing states over the last three decades.  Contributing to this growth has been a fast rising foreign-born population, including illegal aliens.  As a result, there has been a rapid increase in the number of Limited English Proficient (LEP) students enrolled in Utah's public schools.  This number of LEP students in Utah has risen at a much faster rate than overall public school enrollment and in 2011 comprised over 9 percent of the student population in the state.  However, the growth has not been spread evenly throughout the state.  Reflecting the concentration of the foreign-born population, half of all LEP students in the state attend school in just three districts: Granite, Ogden, and Salt Lake City.

The rapid increase in students who struggle to comprehend and communicate in English is a fiscal burden for Utahn taxpayers, and one the federal government has done very little to alleviate. Exacerbating the situation is the welcoming environment that Utah has taken in recent years towards illegal aliens, whose children are much more likely to require LEP instruction.  The money that the state of Utah spends to teach students basic English-language skills depletes the resources available to fund educational programs for all other students. 

LEP students in Utah, as across the United States, consistently lag behind the general student population and perform poorly on standardized tests. As LEP students continue to struggle academically, it is likely that  significantly more taxpayer money will continue to be diverted away from other programs to fund the instruction of non-English language speakers. With substantial budget cuts being made at the state and local levels, it is important to ask the question: What impact is the cost of LEP education having on the quality of education for the children of native-born Utahns?

This study includes the following findings:

  • Between 1980 and 2010, the foreign-born population in Utah increased from 3.5 percent to 8.1 percent of the state's overall population.
  • Utah has the eighth fastest growing LEP population in the United States.
  • The Census Bureau estimates that 13 percent of Utah residents between the ages of 5 and 17 speak a language other than English at home.
  • The Utah State Office of Education identified 53,219 LEP students statewide in the 2010-11 school year, 9.2 percent of the total student population enrolled in the state's public schools.
  • The estimated cost of LEP education in Utah was $436,301,808.
  • Half of the LEP populations in Utah are in three school districts: Granite (15,921), Ogden (3,133), and Salt Lake City (7,179).
  • The cost of LEP education in the Granite School District in 2010-11 was $122.3 million. In the Ogden School District the cost in 2010-11 was $28.5 million. In the Salt Lake City School District the cost was $72.7 million.
  • The federal government provided funds to cover just over 1 percent of the cost of LEP education in Utah.


November 2012