The case played out in a district court in Houston, where lawyers representing districts from across the state argued that the influx of undocumented students could ruin public schools.
"So many states, like California, New York and Illinois, they were waiting to see what was going to happen here," Torres said. "There was a lot of interest."
It took about two months to try the case. The ruling to overturn Texas' policy was upheld in appeals to the 5th Circuit in 1980 and then to the Supreme Court in 1982. (Plyer v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982) )
Now, because of the protections afforded to immigrants under the ruling, schools don't even try to count how many undocumented students are enrolled.
"There's no reason to ask. Even if you could do it legally, why would you want to?" University of Texas law professor Barbara Hines said. "It has a chilling effect."
Others say that putting numbers and costs on the issue would add depth to the immigration debate.
"We certainly could count. They're just unwilling," said State Board of Education member David Bradley. "We track everything: who eats breakfast and lunch. We track cattle ... It'd be kind of nice to see who's going to school and where."
Who are these students?
Many students who primarily speak a language other than English were born in the United States to parents living here illegally. Others entered the country with temporary permits or have won refugee status.
The numbers that are available: 59 percent of HISD's 208,000 students are Hispanic, roughly 60,000 are classified as "Limited English Proficient," and 10,130 students are considered "immigrants" — meaning that they were born outside the U.S. and have been in U.S. schools for three years or less.
The number of Hispanic students in HISD has more than doubled since the 1982 ruling. The district now spends $158 million a year on bilingual and English as a Second Language programs and hires 2,391 teachers — about 20 percent of the teaching staff — for those classes, according to state records.
The cost of illegal immigration to Texas' public schools jumps to about $4 billion a year, according to one study, when the immigrants' children — some of whom were born in the United States and are, therefore, citizens — are counted.
In return, their families contribute nearly $1 billion to the state sales and property tax coffers, according to a study by Jack Martin, special projects director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group that supports tighter restrictions on immigration.
The financial impact:
In addition to using state and local tax dollars, each student enrolled in a Texas school draws a share of the Permanent School Fund, created more than 150 years ago when Texas was annexed. Last year, the state spent $1.6 billion of the $20 billion fund, which is made up of stocks, bonds and the proceeds from land sales, Bradley said...
In addition to using state and local tax dollars, each student enrolled in a Texas school draws a share of the Permanent School Fund, created more than 150 years ago when Texas was annexed. Last year, the state spent $1.6 billion of the $20 billion fund, which is made up of stocks, bonds and the proceeds from land sales, Bradley said.
The problem is not limited to students in Texas. In a decision following arecent lawsuit in California, the high-school exit exam was thrown out because so many seniors could not pass the test. They didn't have sufficient math proficiency to pass a test for 7th graders or English proficiency of 10th graders because...they didn't speak, read, or write English.
Florida's illegal immigration population is costing the state's taxpayers nearly two billion dollars be per year for education, medical care, and incarceration, amounting to the fiscal burden of about $315 per Florida household. Education of K-12 immigrant population costs $1.5 billion for the 8.7% illegal alien students.
The Urban Institute's 1994 calculation of the cost of K-12 education in Florida was based on a per-student cost to state taxpayers of about $4,363. This was higher than the state's comparable cost estimate of about $3,932 per pupil per year. If costs remained constant, the Urban Institute's estimate of outlays on the education of the 2004 population of illegal alien students would have risen because of the increase in illegal alien students from about $419 million to a present cost of about $426 million and the costs of educating the children of illegal aliens born in the United States would be about $962 million. However, educational outlays have risen considerably.
The FAIR research report on educational outlays for illegal immigrant education used the $5,831 average per pupil cost in Florida reported by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) for the 1999-2000 school year and calculated the cost of educating illegal immigrant students in Florida in 2000 to be about $378 million based on the U.S. government's estimated illegal alien population in 2000.
NCES data indicate that educational costs per pupil have risen to a current level of about $6,848. Using an average cost factor may underestimate the costs associated with the illegal resident population. As the authors of the 1994 Urban Institute study explained, "We believe that undocumented aliens are more likely than other students to live in urban areas where per student expenses are relatively high."
Using the estimate of the illegal K-12 immigrant population — updated to 2005 — and the estimated per pupil current cost results in a current cost to Florida's taxpayers of at least $.67 billion per year. Using the same per pupil cost estimate for the U.S.-born children of illegal aliens suggests that the additional expense of educating these children through the 12th grade is at least an additional $.84 billion per year — or a total annual public educational cost from illegal immigration of more than $1.5 billion per year.
The state's admission of illegal aliens into the state's public universities and community colleges at taxpayer subsidized in-state tuition rates is an additional expense not included in the above calculation. Our estimate of that outlay in Florida is that it could be costing the taxpayers $38-49 million per year.
Tax-payer subsidy of illegal-alien students is not limited to K-12. Nine states are allowing students to circumvent the "Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act of 1996" that prohibits public colleges from favoring undocumented students by offering them in-stte tuition rates and not extending that offer to U.S. citizen.
A 2003 study by the University of Illinois at Chicago's Center for Urban Economic Development noted "that if every one of Illinois' 2,226 eligible undocumented students that year graduated from Chicago's high schools and attended a public university, the annual cost to the state for each graduation class of that size would be between $3.3 million and $11.6 million."
From a report by David W. Stewart, author of "Immigration and Education: The Crisis and Opportunities":
The U.S. school-aged population has reached an all-time high of 55 million. Between 1990 and 2000, enrollment increased by 14 percent. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the size of the student body will almost double by 2100. Yet without school-age immigrants (about 250,000 a year) and the children of immigrants (about 725,000 a year), school enrollment would not be rising at all.
The share of students in the U.S. who are immigrants or the children of immigrants has tripled in the past 30 years; in 1970, they were only 6.5 percent of the student body. Today, one in five students has at least one foreign-born parent. In California, almost half of the students starting school are immigrants or the children of immigrants.
As a result of this immigration-driven population growth, about 14 percent of schools exceed their capacity by six to 25 percent, and eight percent exceed it by more than 25 percent. To alleviate overcrowding, more than one-third of schools use portable classrooms, and one-fifth hold classes in temporary instructional space, such as cafeterias and gyms.
The problem has become severe enough that there is now a federal Bilingual/Immigrant State Grant program to assist school systems that experience large increases in their student population due to immigration. This program awards about $700 million a year to affected districts (National Association of Bilingual Education).
The "No Child Left Behind Act" "has the potential to improve the education of children of immigrants and limited English speaking children in several important ways:
Most key provisions affecting limited English proficient (LEP) and immigrant students are set out in Title I and Title III of the Act. Title I requires schools to improve the performance of LEP students on assessments of reading and mathematics beginning in 3rd grade (U.S. Department of Education 2002). Many children of immigrants are limited English proficient. They also fall into one or more of the NCLB Act's other protected classes, including "major racial and ethnic groups" (blacks, Hispanics, and Asians), low-income students, and students in special education programs.
Obviously schools with large populations of students living in language-segregated areas and attending the same school will pose special difficulties for schools attempting to meet program mandates.
Another FAIR report, "Breaking the Piggy Bank: How Illegal Immigration is Sending Schools Into the Red", gives a chart with costs broken down by state and a calculation for expenditure of the top ten states: 1) California - $7.7 billion - nearly 13% of the overall 2004/5 education budget; 2) Texas - 3.9 billion; 3) New York - $3.1 billion; 4) Illinois - $2 billion; 5) New Jersey - $1.5 billion; 6) Florida - $1.2 billion; 7) Georgia - $952 million; 8) North Carolina - $771 million; 9) Arizona - $748 million; 10) Colorado - $564 million.
All of our children—native-born and immigrants alike—are receiving a poorer education as a result of the federal government passing its immigration law enforcement failures on to the states. The implications for the coming generations of workers, our future economy, and our long-term competitiveness in the world cannot be ignored.
If the federal government remains unwilling to undertake serious enforcement of the United States’ immigration laws, it will eventually be forced to provide massive federal education funds to the states. A far more logical and cost-effective alternative—and one with considerable pay-offs in other areas as well—would be to substantially reduce illegal immigration.
Without a serious commitment to doing just that, the open borders and lax enforcement that allow millions of illegal aliens to enter the U.S. each year— and to obtain driver’s licenses and other official identification documents with virtually no fear of the law—will continue to undermine the will of the American people, overburden our communities’ financial resources, and imperil our children’s future.
Note: The original 2003 data and amount of $7.4 billion was amended:
Increases in the estimated per pupil educational cost in the ‘03-’04 school year were based on the rate of increase between ’00-’01 and ’01-’02. These increases generally were between 10%-25%. There were three states with increases of less than 10% and eight with increases greater than 25%.
The estimate of the increase in the illegal alien student population was based on an estimate of the overall increase in the illegal alien population, i.e., from 7 million in 2000 to at least 10 million in 2004. The estimate of the illegal alien K-12 school population is assumed to have similarly increased by about 43% (from slightly less than 1.1 million to slightly less than 1.6 million students).
A 2003 Carnegie Corporation report, "Immigrant Students, Urban High Schools: The Challenge Continues", explains:
Including students of all ethnic backgrounds:
In the 2001-2001 school year, there were an estimated 4.6 million students, or 9.6 percent of the total, who were classified as Limited English Proficient. That represents a 105 percent increase since 1990-1991 school year, a rate far exceeding the 12 percent growth in the general population during the same 10-year period. The vast majority, or 79 percent, of non-English speakers were native Spanish speakers, followed by Vietnamese at 2 percent, Hmong at 1.6 percent, Cantonese at 1 percent and Korean at 1 percent.
These trends have led experts to conclude that the level of education achieved by immigrant -- particularly Hispanic -- students will play a major role in determining the quality of the country's future labor force. A breakdown of Census figures by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University reinforces the point. It found that immigrants account for half of new wage earners in the 1990s, up from around 25 percent in the 1980s and 10 percent in the 1970s.
The report states that 87 percent of immigrants say "it is extremely important for immigrants to be able to speak and understand English," and "it's not unreasonable for American society to expect it of them: about 2 in 3 (65%) say, ' the U.S. should expect all immigrants who don't speak English to learn it." Yet, "schools are not doing a good job" although many schools "provide intense doses of English-language instruction. It's part of what every classroom -- math, science, or social studies -- does.
Motivation is the Key: first generation immigrants, those that have fled from some where are more motivated than their offspring. But those that are poorly educated to begin with often have poorly-educated offspring.
In an April 2004 report by economist David Card, "Is the New Immigration Really So Bad?", the educational progress and attainment depends on the location and the immigrant group.
He states that
the fraction of low-education immigrants in Los Angeles, for example, led to a rise in the fraction of high school dropouts in the local population. In Pittsburgh and Cleveland, on the other hand, immigrant densities have fallen over the past two decades and fractions of dropouts in the local population declined sharply. Most high-immigration cities, including New York, Houston, San Francisco, and Miami, experienced relatively small declines in the fraction of dropouts between 1980 and 2000, whereas most low-immigtration cities, including Philadelphia, Detroit, and Atlanta, experienced bigger reductions...If inflows of less educated immigrants are offset by outflows of native dropouts (or if less educated immigrants tend to move to cities where there is a bigger positive trend in the educational attainment of the native population), immigration will have little impact on the overall dropout share and coefficient B (in the equation stated in the report) will close to 0. If mobility flows of native dropouts (and trends in native educational attainment) are uncorrelated with the inflow rate of low skilled immigrants, the coefficient B will close to 1.
Study after study has shown that schools have little effect in an area of an influx of low-skilled, poorly educated immigrants into a language-ghetto where they will have little opportunity to reinforce English after school hours and that the billions spent is essentially wasted. It's not that immigrant children should not be given opportunities nor should funds be denied them, but the reality is that unless they are willing to move away from "colonias" or "barrios" or concentrated neighborhoods or districts where English is read and spoken, there can be little if any educational improvement.
This isn't rocket science. Everyone understands the concept. The problem lies in the aspirations of the different groups; to they to assimilate to integrate, or do they want balkanization into cultural and linguistic enclaves and should American taxpayers subsidize such an arrangement? Furthermore: Should the American taxpayer be expected to educate the children of other countries that either can't or won't do the job?