Texas Education Agency Orders Districts Not to Use State Funds for Migrant Children’s Education

Some Texas school districts already have education agreements with federal contractors that manage these migrant shelters.

The Karnes County Residential Center is a detention center for immigrant women and their children in Karnes City, southeast of San Antonio. The facility is run by The GEO Group, Inc.

Texas education officials have ordered public school districts to not use any state funds to educate immigrant children held in federal detention centers, issuing guidance that goes against some current practices.

In a letter Friday, the Texas Education Agency sent a strong message to districts that want to educate immigrant children in federal custody who've been separated from their parents.

TEA said districts have to charge tuition if they teach these children, and they can't count them as students for state funding purposes. Michael Olivas, who teaches law at the University of Houston, said that the state still has some responsibility.

“State law says these kids have to be educated — they have to be educated in what is better and more adequate, more comprehensive settings than these cages, which are not working, and no one can concede or stipulate that that is somehow adequate,” Olivas said.

Olivas added that there are overlapping jurisdictions between state and federal law, but these immigrant children are falling into a “canyon” between them.

Some Texas school districts already have education agreements with federal contractors that manage these migrant shelters.

The Harlingen Consolidated School District said in an email that it provides a teacher and assistant to teach 50 children at a Southwest Key facility, and counts those students in its enrollment numbers. It’s had an agreement with the federal contractor since 2013.

David Hinojosa, who is the national director of policy for the Intercultural Development Research Association based in San Antonio, said with the state drawing a line in the sand, it raises several concerns.

“These school districts, through the goodness of their heart, are trying to provide some additional resources to these children in need, who have been separated from their families … and they’re actually providing real services, real teacher time and the message the state is sending is, ‘Don’t do that, That’s not our responsible,’ — even though many of these kids may end up in Texas schools,” Hinojosa said.

“Why not allow these school districts to help supplement the education of these students to make sure once, if they do indeed transition to a Texas public school, that they’re more ready, as opposed to being further behind? Because now if they’re further behind, you’re going to have to use more resources,” he added.




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Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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