Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Immigration: At what cost to Utah schools?

But as the immigration debate in Utah heats up, a number of Utahns find themselves wondering whether paying to educate Andrea and other students like her is taxing the public school system to the point that the children of legal residents suffer.

It’s a question that doesn’t seem to have an easy answer, though schools must educate students regardless of their legal statuses, per a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court case.

The Pew Hispanic Center estimated that about 8 percent of Utah students in kindergarten through 12th grade had an undocumented parent in 2009 — a figure higher than the national average of about 6.2 percent. And a 2007 legislative audit estimated that it cost Utah between $55 million and $85 million in fiscal year 2006 to educate just undocumented students.

In July of 2007, members of the Education Interim Committee voted to send a letter, along with the audit, to the federal government asking it to reimburse Utah for those students.

Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, said at the time, “We as a state are asked to absorb large numbers of costs that result from failed federal immigration policy.”

“If you isolate the cost of illegal immigrant children in the classroom we could have forgone taking that [federal] money,” said Eagar, referring to $101 million Utah recently accepted to help schools.

But others say it’s not enough to look just at the cost of educating children of undocumented immigrants. Some, for example, criticized the 2007 audit for not including estimates of money paid into the state by such immigrants.

Utah schools are funded mostly through income tax, which undocumented immigrants generally don’t pay unless they have a Social Security number. But about 30 percent of total education funding comes from property tax, which undocumented immigrants pay if they own homes or may help pay indirectly through rent. Some education funding also comes from the federal government and other local sources.

As to the question of whether undocumented immigrants pay enough into the school system to support the costs of their children’s educations, Jeff Passel, a senior demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center, said it’s his sense that parents, as a whole group, generally don’t pay enough to cover those costs. The population as a whole, not just parents, pays to educate children. Yet he said the question of whether parents are paying enough into the school system for their own kids tends to be directed at undocumented immigrants. “We don’t ask that for other kids,” Passel said.

Also, Utah would likely still have the lowest base per-pupil spending and highest student-to-teacher ratios in the nation even without children of undocumented immigrants.

About 8 percent of Utah’s students are likely children of undocumented immigrants, but Utah’s per pupil spending was about 17 percent lower than the next lowest state in 2007-08, according to figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. And Utah’s student-to-teacher ratio was about 26 percent higher than the next highest state in 2008-09, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.


Detention centres for illegals busting out all over in Australia

CHRISTMAS Island is fast becoming the alternative place of detention for boatpeople. The number of boatpeople on the mainland now easily outnumbers those on the Indian Ocean island excised in 2002 for the purpose of processing asylum-seekers.

There are 3469 boatpeople or "irregular maritime arrivals" in immigration detention on the Australian mainland compared with 2811 on Christmas Island, according to Immigration Department figures compiled on the evening of December 30.

Labor moved to overturn the Howard government practice of offshore processing in September 2009, when then immigration minister Chris Evans authorised the transfer of 10 Afghan youths from Christmas Island to the Melbourne Immigration Detention Centre.

An Immigration spokesman said at the time the decision to allow the boys to travel to the mainland with their paid carers would give them access to a range of classes and recreational activities. "This move will enable the department to finalise their cases and ensure support to this particularly vulnerable group," he said.

Within months, large numbers of asylum-seekers were being transferred to mainland detention because crowding on Christmas Island was becoming unmanageable. Initially, men were sent to high-security detention centres at Villawood, in Sydney's western suburbs, and in Darwin.

In June last year, families were sent to a refurbished miners' camp in the West Australian town of Leonora, where the shire and local business owners welcomed the economic boost.

There are now detention centres or facilities for boatpeople in every mainland state, including at the air bases at Curtin in the far north Kimberley of Western Australia and in Scherger near Weipa in Queensland's far north.

So far, the decision has done little to ease crowding on Christmas Island, where tents -- supposed to be a temporary measure -- are still in use.

Residents on Christmas Island have long complained of rising rents and food prices caused by crowding outside the detention centre. The influx of government workers and contractors who work on a fly-in, fly-out basis has been good for businesses but difficult for residents on relatively modest incomes.

Christmas Island shire president Gordon Thomson lobbied Labor for extra infrastructure to cope with the crowding. As a result, the island's sewerage and water systems are being upgraded and extra housing is planned. Residents hope pressure will ease when the federal government moves about 1500 men from Christmas Island to an old army barracks in the West Australian wheatbelt town of Northam.


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