New Report Finds That Limited English Proficient Student Enrollment Is Surging Nationwide

Federation for American Immigration Reform, August 17, 2007

A new study by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), Limited English Proficiency Enrollment and Rapidly Rising Costs, finds that between 1995 and 2005, the number of children in our nation’s public schools listed as Limited English Proficient (LEP) increased by some 1.2 million. In 2005, approximately 4.5 million K-12 children in public schools around the country required special educational programs to help them master basic English, a 38 percent increase over a decade earlier. The total bill to the taxpayers for LEP programs likely exceeds $4 billion annually, finds the report.

Continued large-scale immigration, particularly illegal immigration, is the primary factor in the increase in the LEP student population. FAIR estimates that some 3.5 million children of illegal aliens now attend K-12 schools around the country. Most of the costs for educating LEP students fall on state and local governments that are already straining to provide educational resources to their populations. Between 1995 and 2005, 11 states saw their LEP student enrollment double, while eight more saw enrollment triple.

“Education is by far the largest cost associated with mass immigration generally, and illegal immigration in particular,” commented Dan Stein, president of FAIR. “These mounting costs for basic education and special LEP programs come at a time when polls show that the public is increasingly concerned about the overall quality of public education in our country. While every politician in America promises to improve public education, government immigration policies continue to compound the challenges faced by our schools.”

The surge in LEP enrollment became a nationwide phenomenon between 1995 and 2005, as virtually all regions of the country experienced a rapid growth in immigrant population. However, six states still accounted for 69 percent of the LEP student population in 2005, with California leading the way. More than a quarter of California students were not fluent in English in 2005.

“In spite of the billions of dollars being invested in LEP programs around the country, it is not clear that we are succeeding in preparing these kids for the challenges they will face as adults,” said Stein. “The educational failure rates among LEP students and the school systems that are asked to educate them are alarming. The costs of these failures cannot be measured only by the $4 billion or more a year we are spending on LEP programs today. A far greater cost will be paid by society in the years to come if large numbers of today’s LEP students are allowed to turn into a poorly trained adult work force of tomorrow. These are consequences of an ill-conceived and poorly enforced immigration policy that we ignore at our own peril.”

[Editor’s Note: The full report “Limited English Proficiency Enrollment and Rapicly Risng Costs,” by Jack Martin, can be read or downloaded in PDF format here.]

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