AUSTIN (KXAN) — School districts across Texas are preparing for classes to start once again. Unlike most years, however, because of the recent influx of immigrant children, some are anticipating a higher number of immigrant children enrolling. They really won’t know how many until school starts. The Austin ISD expects between 200 and 250 of those immigrant students to attend classes in the district.
“Every child in this country has a right to an education, so if a student shows up with a guardian that can enroll them in a school district, that child is entitled to right to education,” Gene Acuna, a spokesman for the Texas Education Agency, said.
He tells KXAN that each year they anticipate a rough number of new students. This year it was slated at around 80,000, which the agency says it is equipped to handle.
“Now if we get close to that number or exceed that number, that’s when we’d have to make adjustments,” he said.
To help guide these schools and others around the country, the Department of Education has sent out a fact sheet to school administrators.
Included in the fact sheet is some background:
“All children in the United States are entitled to equal access to a public elementary and secondary education, regardless of their or their parents’ actual or perceived national origin, citizenship, or immigration status. This includes recently arrived unaccompanied children, who are in immigration proceedings while residing in local communities with a parent, family member, or other appropriate adult sponsor.”
The fact sheet also lists resources available for schools enrolling immigrant children, including newly arrived immigrant children. It also explains that while districts must enroll children who come with parents, guardians or sponsors, they are not required to enroll children in custody with Health and Human Services shelters.
Hays CISD has a Newcomer Arrival Classroom, specifically for children from other countries. Principal of Simon Middle School, Matt Pope, says they anticipate English language learners each year.
“They’re children,” says Pope. “We didn’t become educators because we wanted to turn away children, we want to help all children”
Leticia Maynard says this is the first school she’s worked at with a program like this, “Just to see these kids come here completely scared, once they leave the classroom they feel confident and assured they have a brighter future.”
While schools can’t legally turn away students, some Texans aren’t happy about the burden on taxpayers.
Roger Falk, with the Travis County Taxpayers Union, said, “Failure to enforce our federal laws has resulted in a situation that will put an additional load on local homeowners to pay for these children’s education.”
Communities will have a better idea of how this is impacting their schools come the first day of class.