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.