Immigration Policies Weigh Heavily on U.S. Schools

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America’s immigration policies are amplifying the perennial pleas for more public school funding.

Each year, an estimated 5 million refugees and immigrants – legal and illegal – are enrolled at K-12 campuses with a variety of special needs. More than 175,000 unaccompanied children settled in the U.S. since 2014, with some 18,000 arriving in just 10 counties last year.

A new report by the Migration Policy Institute runs down these pupils’ high-cost needs. Going far beyond the basics of learning English, the list includes mental-health care, legal representation, “socioemotional services,” even “housing rights.”

This naturally necessitates a growing phalanx of providers inside and outside the classroom. Surveying widely varying literacy rates among the new arrivals, “Beyond Teaching English” advises districts to check the “linguistic and cultural competence of staff.”

 How big is the challenge? FAIR estimates that public schools will spend $43,396,433,856 serving children of illegal aliens this year – a massive unfunded mandate. Folding in the costs of legal immigrant pupils, FAIR said the tab totaled $59.8 billion.

A recent sampling of 27 high schools found 9,000 refugee/immigrant students speaking 170-plus languages. “Foreign languages are a cause for celebration,” an MPI researcher said, echoing the mantra of Washington’s immigration enthusiasts.

Amid the celebration, however, the MPI study never addresses the actual costs of the party. Not a single dollar sign appears in the 36-page report, though its research revealed that five states — Arkansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee — each saw their English Learner populations more than double between 2000 and 2014.

The failure to address the fiscal impact of immigration is shared by federal politicians and policymakers who craft immigration policy with little or no regard to the downstream financial consequences. Under U.S. Department of Education edicts for minimum language proficiency, high school graduation cycles are creeping up to five or even six years among immigrants, according to the MPI report.

When FAIR asked about the price of increasingly intensive and expansive English Learner initiatives, lead author Julie Sugarman couldn’t quantify it. Instead, she responded that “most (but not all) states provide (unspecified) higher funding for English Learners” while Title 3 of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act earmarks $740 million annually for such programs.

The federal Office of Refugee Resettlement issues modest School Impact Grants to 39 state and charitable agencies.

It’s mere chump change compared to the $59.8 billion spent educating immigrant children. a cost shouldered almost exclusively by state and local taxpayers.

Even amid record K-12 outlays — which Sugarman deems  “inequitable and insufficient” – schools in immigrant-heavy areas are “under-resourced,” she says. With decades of open-ended immigration policies producing historic waves of new school-age arrivals, resources are stretched beyond the limit.

Doubling down on the unsustainable situation, Sugarman’s Migration Policy Institute and like-minded groups are busy building a cottage industry to lobby for evermore immigration-induced entitlements, at whatever cost. Expect tax bills to rise accordingly.

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About Author

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Kenric joined FAIR in 2017. An investigative reporter and editor, Kenric has worked at three Pulitzer Prize-winning newspapers and two online news sites since earning a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of California, Los Angeles. A California native and resident of Texas, Kenric's news reporting and commentaries have won first-place national and state journalism awards. His writing on immigration appears in news outlets across the country, including Fox News, Roll Call, Washington Times, Washington Examiner, Immigration Daily, TownHall, Human Events and Houston Chronicle.

5 Comments

  1. avatar
    Not Politically Correct on

    No more English as second language classes. Classes should be taught in English only and kids who don’t speak it will be immersed into it and they can sink or learn to swim. My mother-in-law only spoke German when she started first grade and there was no English as a second language class or government paid interpreter and she grew up to be a happy and well adjusted person.

  2. avatar
    Shirley riggs olivas on

    Our schools will never be able to raise academic gaps for African Americans who Civil Rights in 1964 was to help. Ted Kennedy sneaked a bill through in 1965 that enabled immigrants to take advantage of civil rights benifits. That was the beginning of so much illegal immigration. He told Pope he wanted him to know he did legislation to help the poor, mostly Catholics. Maybe he was hoping for forgiveness. But it caused so many problems for African Americans who needed help to close the educational gap for them. President Johnson started the war on poverty and started giving money to single mothers who had children. This pushed the father out of the home and caused the breakdown in the African American family. Our government has caused these problems! It is up to us to demand it be fixed!

  3. avatar

    And the end result of all this massive expenditure is declining school achievement scores and significantly higher drop out rates than native born Americans. The last thing we need is under educated young people in a society where many unskilled jobs will be filled by automation in the near future, which no one disputes. Anyone who finds this to be a positive needs either a basic math class or mental help. We spend massive amounts of money educating the poor of the world and we let our enemies like China send their students here to be educated and steal our technology. This is good for us how?

    • avatar
      Shirley Riggs Olivas on

      As a former educator, I am very aware of the stress immigration, both legal and illegal, puts on education systems. It is Hugh! I feel doing away with “birthright Citizenship” would be the most powerful thing we can do to end illegal immigration. They come and have anchor babies to be able to access benifit programs paid by the tax payers. We educate and provide health care for all children (CHIP) and it hurts our children! I feel strongly Supreme Court would rule the 14th Amendment was for the freed slaves and 15th Amendment was for the Native Americans, not for anyone who is born here to be a citizen. Or pass an Amendment to Contitution to end it. It would solve many problems in this country for USA citizens .

      • avatar

        The whole birthright citizenship thing with the 14th amendment comes from the Supreme Court based on the case of Wong Kim Ark in 1898. In the last paragraph of their decision declaring him a citizen they specifically noted that his parents were long time residents and business owners in San Francisco, having entered the country legally from China years before. In other words what we now call legal permanent residents. The obvious counterpart to that is why they would go out of their way to emphasis his parents legal long time residence. It seems clear that reasoning would not include those without permission to be here, or someone who crossed a border or arrived on a plane the week before.