Survey Shows Educators Struggle With Impact of Immigration

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Kerry Townsend, the media specialist coordinator in the Columbia public schools in Missouri, thinks an influx of immigrants has helped bring diversity to her college town in the central part of the Show Me State. But providing the newcomers with a high-quality education comes with a financial strain.

Townsend called the impact of immigration on school systems like hers, “very complicated. It’s good to get different points of view, different perspectives. It’s good for students who have grown up in Missouri to see that there’s more beyond Missouri,” she said. “But I think it’s very expensive.” Schools don’t always get the resources they need, Townsend said.

Many of her colleagues in the K-12 field are similarly conflicted. Forty-four percent of educators surveyed by the Education Week Research Center said they saw the impact of immigration on schools as “mixed,” while another 38 percent said it was a “good thing.” Only 8 percent saw it as a “bad thing.”


Like Townsend, educators who can see both the pros and cons tended to point to increased diversity as a major upside and to the squeeze on resources as the biggest downside.

About This Survey

The Education Week Research Center surveyed a nationally representative sample of teachers, school-based leaders, and district leaders about their politics and views on a wide range of K-12 issues. The 38-question survey was administered in September and October to 1,122 educators including 555 teachers, 266 school leaders, 202 district leaders, and 99 other school or district employees. The margin of error for the survey overall was plus or minus 5 percent. Followup interviews involved survey respondents who agreed to be contacted after the survey and were willing to be quoted on a range of subjects.

More Survey Findings:

Read the full report.

Immigrants bring with them “talent and diversity,” said James Frank, the principal of Crest Ridge High School in Centerview, Mo. At the same time, “the reality is that there’s a financial burden that comes with” an influx of immigrants.

Others though, see immigration as an unadulterated positive.

“It’s an excellent thing for every student,” said Jeanné Collins, the superintendent of Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union. “Vermont kids have very little opportunity to think outside of their white world. The opportunity to go to school with kids who speak other languages, are from other cultures, can only be a good thing.” Meanwhile, most educators surveyed—nearly 70 percent—either “completely support” or “somewhat support” the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an Obama-era initiative that allows undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children to remain here legally. Just 7 percent “completely oppose” DACA, and 12 percent “somewhat” oppose it. President Donald Trump recently signed a directive that will terminate the program in March of next year, unless Congress acts.

Many educators have sympathy for DACA beneficiaries.

“It’s hard for me to hold something against a child that they didn’t do,” said Vance Nichols, a Republican who is the head of school at Alta Loma Christian School, a private, faith-based school in Southern California. Dreamers, he said, using the term identified with such students, are “here not of their own volition, and they’ve created a life. Dreamers are an asset to our nation, and they love America.”

Others, though, aren’t sure it’s a good idea to reward families who have technically violated the law.

“I don’t think they should extend DACA. If I’m standing in line to get a cup of coffee, I don’t want people butting in line,” said Tim Erickson, a special education teacher at Detroit Lakes High School in northwestern Minnesota and a political independent. “We have rules for a reason, and people should follow them.”

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