Rejecting requests from local school districts, Texas will not fund education programs for illegal aliens held at immigration detention centers in the state.
In response, the Harlingen school system said it will “re-evaluate” its presence in a Southwest Key contract shelter, which it had supported with about $5,000 per migrant.
Also rebuffed in its bid for $2.8 million of added state funding to serve aliens, a neighboring district in San Benito ended its partnership with another Southwest Key shelter.
Nationwide, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services confirmed that more than 10,000 migrant minors are in federal custody, with a large portion of them in Texas. The vast majority of them arrived in the U.S. alone, without their parents.
Expending funds on illegal aliens was a quixotic gambit for Texas schools, which perennially complain they don’t have enough resources to educate children legally residing in their districts. School boards across the Lone Star State regularly push bond elections and property tax increases to raise more money.
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) says responsibility for educating children in shelters “remains solely with the federal government.”
“Local educational agencies that wish to provide services to unaccompanied alien children in federal custody may do so on a contractual or tuition fee basis, but may not do so with state education funding,” TEA stated.
Explaining the mechanics in an Aug. 31 directive, TEA said:
- A school district shall charge tuition for a child who resides at a residential facility and whose maintenance expenses are paid in whole or in part by another state or the United States.
- A tuition charge under this section must be submitted to the commissioner for approval.
- The attendance of the child is not counted for purposes of allocating state funds to the district.
State officials reviewed their policies after Promesa Public Schools, a charter school group originally founded by Southwest Key, sought permission to expand one of its Brownsville campuses “to serve immigrant students in federal detention.”
That’s when TEA laid down the law and drew the line on funding.
Health and Human Services rules mandate that migrant shelters provide children with six hours of schooling on weekdays, as well as special education services. HHS has not commented on Texas’ hands-off policy.
Educating detained illegal immigrant children has become a big moneymaker for Austin-based Southwest Key Programs Inc., which operates 16 facilities for unaccompanied alien children in Texas (26 nationwide). The nonprofit contractor received $1.5 billion from the federal government over the past decade and expects to earn more than $458 million this year.