School Districts Brace for Central American Refugees

The Central American children who have crossed the US border have school districts, especially those in areas with high Latino populations, bracing for their arrival. Fox News Latino reports that in California, South Florida, Texas, and places in-between, almost 40,000 children have been placed with relatives or guardians and are planning on starting classes in the next few weeks.

While waiting to begin immigration court proceedings that will decide whether they stay in the US or are sent back to their own countries, they will be allowed to attend school. Some districts have already started classes and those schools are beginning to experience the complicated logistics involved in accepting this new population.

"During the last quarter of last school year, we received about 300 students from Honduras. This was an indication of bigger things to come," said Miami-Dade County Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, according to WSVN in South Florida.

The bigger things to come are 2,000 more kids. Carvalho says that he feels there is a moral and legal obligation to teach these children. The district has asked for federal funding in order to cover the additional costs because these children who have a right under US law to a public education through the 12th grade.

"For every single child that arrives here not speaking the language, poor and with psychological needs, we spend an excess of $1,950 per year," said Carvalho. "We are asking Congress to step in. Now that they are here, they need to financially support us, so that the burden is not only on the state and local taxpayers."

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is planning for 1,000 additional students this year, but that number may change when school doors open. LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy says they will welcome the new students with open arms.

The Los Angeles Times said that federal agencies are looking for 60,000 minors who entered the US without an adult accompanying them. Most of the young people are coming from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

Approximately 7,500 people come across the border each year, but officials estimate that number rose to 13,625 last year and is somewhere around 25,000 so far in 2014.

For the children, coming to the US includes many challenges, such as language and cultural hurdles, multiple cultural and socioeconomic differences, traumatization from the dangers faced in their countries, no educational experience, and separation anxiety.

The Obama administration is preparing the nation's schools to accept the thousands of children who entered the US's southwest border illegally, reports Mario Trujillo writing for The Hill. These young people are awaiting trials concerning their possible deportations. The summer's emotional reaction to and public debate about the US border will make incorporating these students into local schools even more difficult. Most state officials are nervous about the costs of educating these children.

"There are many consequences of the federal government's failure to secure the border and the fiscal impact of educating unaccompanied alien children is certainly one of them," said Travis Considine, a spokesman for Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R).

Many of the children are housed in approximately 150 shelters located around the country which are run by the Department of Health and Human Services. No additional support for agencies handling this barrage of immigrants has been approved by Congress.

The Departments of Justice and Education are sensitive to the fact that allowing these children to attend school is their civil right, and have dispersed reminders of this law to all school districts.

08 19, 2014
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