Education

Utah Asks Feds to Pay For Educating Undocumented Children

By Mary Ann Zehr — July 23, 2007 1 min read

First, Utah lawmakers conducted an audit of how much it costs the state to educate undocumented children in K-12 public schools. Now they’re using that audit to ask the federal government to cover the cost, which was between $54.9 million and $85.4 million in 2006, as reported by an Associated Press reporter and published in the Salt Lake Tribune and other newspapers last week.

Last year, New Mexico Voices for Children estimated in a report that state and local governments in New Mexico spent between $49 million and $67 million in educating undocumented children each year. While the Utah audit did not take into consideration the financial contributions of illegal immigrants to the state, the study by the New Mexico Voices for Children did. The New Mexico study found that undocumented immigrants cover the K-12 education cost for undocumented children in the taxes they pay each year.

I’m not aware of any report that provides reliable figures nationwide about this issue. The U.S. Government Accountability Office--then called the General Accounting Office--published a report in June 2004, “Illegal Alien Schoolchildren: Issues in Estimating State-by-State Costs,” that concluded government information was “not sufficient to directly estimate the state-by-state costs of educating illegal alien schoolchildren.”

(Personally, I wish the government would stop using that word “aliens” to refer to undocumented people. It makes me think lawmakers who started using that word must have watched too many movies about visitors from outer space.)

It seems that coming up with some solid figures nationally for both the costs of educating undocumented children and the financial contributions of undocumented immigrants would make a good research project for someone.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.