State and local governments will need to find an additional $761 million to fund the education of tens of thousands of Central American children who have crossed the border illegally, according to a new report.
The Federation for American Immigration Reform
(FAIR), which is opposed to amnesty and favors an enforcement-first immigration policy, used federal government data to determine how many of the more than 37,000 children who have entered the United States as part of the latest surge are eligible to attend public schools.
"These kids will require special Limited English Proficient (LEP) classes conducted in Spanish, or in other languages indigenous to Central American, as well as other taxpayer funded services, such as free and reduced school meals. Once again the costs of federal government’s failed immigration policies are borne at the local level, and the nation's public school system is where the costs are most visible," said a statement from FAIR.
Based on earlier estimates of the cost of educating LEP students in public school, FAIR estimated the costs to individual states to provide services, including reduced lunches, to those immigrants who were released to sponsors or adult relatives between January 1 and July 31.
According to FAIR, in New York, it will cost $147.7 million to educate an estimated 4,244 unaccompanied minors. At $35,520 per pupil, New York tops the list, followed by Texas ($78 million), Maryland ($68 million), and California ($64 million).
Under federal law, these children are entitled to attend public school regardless of immigration status.
Nationally, federal agencies anticipate they will need to manage about 60,000 unaccompanied minors in the next year, which compares with about 7,500 who arrived before the numbers surged to 13,625 last year and about 25,000 in the current year, according to The Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Unified Superintendent John Deasy told The Times that his system likely will look to the state, rather than the federal government, to provide money through California's new funding system, which would use other sources, such as funding for migrant or homeless students.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti says the city has welcomed the children, describing providing assistance as a "humanitarian issue" and says "the most important thing for me is to make sure these children are safe and sheltered."
In another state atop FAIR's list, Maryland school officials held a briefing recently in which they said there were 100 undocumented students already enrolled in Montgomery County schools, but could not say how many would be attending school in the coming year, according to WTOP
"You know, we're waiting to hear at this point; we don't know what the numbers will be for the next school year," Montgomery County Public Schools' Spokesman Dana Tofig said after a recent press briefing.
Not all have embraced the idea of educating the undocumented children.
"To find out yesterday that they have over 100 so-called unaccompanied minors already in the public school system was kind of a shock to those of us who follow this issue," Executive director of the anti-immigrant group Help Save Maryland, Brad Botwin, told WTOP.
"There are other ways to handle this issue – we need to repatriate and reunite families back in their home countries," Botwin added.
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