Report: Immigration Costs Miami-Dade Schools $22 Million a Year

David Smiley, Miami Herald, March 9, 2013

As lawmakers in Washington consider changes to immigration laws, Miami-Dade public school officials want them to know just how much their policies are taxing South Florida’s classrooms.

According to a report released last week, the district pays $22 million each year to educate new students who come to South Florida from other countries and enroll in K-12 classes. The report says close to 1,000 new immigrant students enter Miami-Dade classes on average each month—totaling about 11,000 a year—costing about $2,000 more per student than those who come from South Florida and don’t require additional language services.

The “Immigration Impact Briefing,” compiled at the request of Miami-Dade School Board member and Republican political consultant Carlos Curbelo, says the extra $22 million—a conservative estimate—is not reimbursed by federal or state funds. Translation: It comes from Miami-Dade taxpayers.

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District figures show the melting pot in Miami-Dade filters down into the public school system, where as of February there were more than 68,000 foreign-born students enrolled in classes. That’s one out of every five students, mostly from Cuba, though students come from countries as far flung as Poland and Nigeria.

Among immigration’s effects on the district, according to the report:

• Additional English for Speakers of Other Languages courses must be offered to accommodate “English language learners,” and likewise additional teachers must be must be certified and ESOL-endorsed. The cost of ESOL, which is not reimbursed by the state or federal government, is about $1,500 a student.

• Students who come from other countries cost the district close to $500 each to provide “student stations”—a desk, classroom space—because their enrollment is unexpected.

• For some students uprooted abruptly from their schooling, the district must provide a “transitional newcomer program” that caters to cultural and language needs.

The “federal government should fully fund the cost of its immigration policies on local school districts,” the report states. {snip}

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Charlene Burks, administrative director of the district’s federal and state compliance office, said most immigrant students come to South Florida under stable circumstances with their families. Some even come only for the winter and are enrolled in school for just a few weeks. But sudden influxes can happen, such as in the winter of 2010 after the major earthquake in Haiti, which sent Haitian children by the thousands into South Florida schools.

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