37,000+ Unaccompanied Minors Ready To Enroll in U.S. Public Schools

Paul Lagarde | August 14, 2014 | 10:00am EDT
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(AP photo)

(CNSNews.com)—  Public school systems around the country preparing to begin a new school year will be facing the added burden of enrolling more than 37,000 unaccompanied minors who have entered the U.S. illegally.

According to the Administration for Children & Families’ Office of Refugee Resettlement, 37,477 alien children have been placed with relatives or other sponsors around the country so far this year while their immigration cases are being processed in court.

In the meantime, they are entitled to attend U.S. public schools, which have dropped out of the top 20 in global rankings for math, reading and science.

Only one illegal minor was sent to Montana between January 1 and July 31st, according to the ORR’s state-by-state analysis.

However, other states have received thousands of unaccompanied minors, which could create a strain on some school districts. The highest number were released to relatives or other sponsors in Texas (5,280), followed by New York (4,244), California (3.909), Florida (3,809), and Virginia (2.856).

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), 62,998 unaccompanied alien children under the age of 17 have illegally crossed the southern border since October of last year. So there are still thousands of children and teens in detention centers waiting to be processed before they are released throughout the U.S.

The vast majority are from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico, according to the CBP.

Many are unable to speak English. “We don't know the educational background (of the students), if they've even been to school, the language issue and operational issues that could raise costs,” Francisco Negron, general counsel for the National School Board Association, told USA Today.

Miami-Dade County, the district in Florida with the most newly arrived immigrant children, had to request additional funding last week to counteract the expected spike in new students.

San Antonio is another hotspot for immigrant resettlement. However, Leslie Price of the San Antonio Independent School District told CNSNews.com that she still has no indication whether a large number of immigrant children will be enrolled in San Antonio schools.

“We do want to make sure that we are ready, however, should that occur,” she said.  “Toward that end – we have pulled together a team of employees and have begun discussions to ensure that we can best accommodate them should we have any of these students enrolled in our schools.”

In May, the Department of Justice issued a statement reminding public schools that they are legally required to enroll all children, regardless of their immigration status.

“You must ensure that you do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin, and that students are not barred from enrolling in public schools at the elementary and secondary level on the basis of their own citizenship or immigration status of that of their parents or guardians,” the DOJ statement read.

This stems from the Supreme Court’s 1982 Plyler v. Doe decision, in which the court wrote: “By denying these children a basic education, we deny them the ability to live within the structure of our civic institutions, and foreclose any realistic possibility that they will contribute in even the smallest way to the progress of our Nation.”

The surge of foreign-born children comes at a time when U.S. public schools are already struggling to keep up with their counterparts around the globe.

In the latest rankings by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which measures test results from the 65 most developed nations in the world, the U.S. scored below average in math and only average in reading and science, despite spending more per student ($115,000) than most countries. The Slovak Republic only spends $53,000 per student, yet performs at a similar level, according to the PISA report.

In 2010, President Obama acknowledged on “The Today Show” that the performance of U.S. public school students have fallen behind those of other nations.

"Historically, when we first set up the public school systems across the country, we were leaps and bounds ahead of the vast majority of countries around the world," Obama said. "That just is not true anymore. They have caught up and, in some cases, they're surpassing us, especially in math and science. It happened over decades.

"There are a lot of contributing factors. But part of the challenge, I think, for the entire country is to understand that how well we do economically, whether jobs are created here, high-end jobs to support families and support the future of the American people, is going to depend on whether or not we can do something about these schools."

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