Denver Public Schools nearly $20M in the red due to migrant influx from southern border

Denver Public Schools (DPS) faces a major budget shortfall after nearly 3,000 students have crossed the southern border and enrolled in public schools at no cost, aided by current Biden…

Denver Public Schools (DPS) faces a major budget shortfall after nearly 3,000 students have crossed the southern border and enrolled in public schools at no cost, aided by current Biden administration policies.

DPS was hoping the additional enrollment would bring enough state funding with it to reverse years of decline in enrollment and funding.

But so far enrollment has outstripped the state’s ability to fund the influx of students, which shows no signs of slowing, said the Denver Post.

DPS estimates the district faces a budget shortfall of $17.5 million, the Post reports – a deficit expected to continue to grow if the border crossings don’t stop.

Nearly 40,000 migrants have arrived in Denver over the last year, straining not just the school system, but also other public services, such as hospitals and shelters, reported NBC News.

Denver Health is asking for an emergency infusion of $10 million from state and federal authorities to cover unpaid medical bills, said NBC. 

Denver Mayor Mike Johnston said he thinks the city will need an additional $180 million in 2024 to cover the added expenses from the immigrants, reported local 9 News. 

Denver is raiding its general fund to cover the expenses, the station also reported. 

“This challenge is far larger than we’ve ever seen it before, and the scale can feel daunting,” said the mayor.  

The fiscal health of DPS remained unclear, even before the immigration budget strain made news. 

In November 2022, DPS said it expected a $23.5 million budget shortfall by the end of 2022-2023 because of declining enrollment, the Post reported.  

Two months later, district officials lowered the deficit expectations to $9 million, but said the district would run deficits at least through 2024-2025. 

DPS Superintendent Alex Marrero recommended closing more low-enrollment schools to reduce the strain on the district’s budget, but the DPS board rejected the proposal.  

Theoretically, the higher enrollment numbers because of the immigrants should bring additional state funding to the schools, according to the state’s per-pupil funding formula. But the enrollment numbers are set once per year, in the fall, while enrollments, because of mass migration, continue to climb weekly.  

“We are really trying to run a balanced budget,” Chuck Carpenter, the district’s chief financial officer, told the Post. “If we do nothing, this is what is going to happen in the next several years.” 

Districts in Chicago, Boston, D.C., and New York are all struggling with mass enrollments due to open borders, said Axios.  

As of mid-October, over 130,600 illegal aliens have arrived in New York City since the spring of 2022, causing a crisis for the city’s shelter system, schools and budget.  

The cost of the influx in New York is expected to nearly match the city’s 2023 budget for K–12 schools and instruction. 

Denver, with a population of just 700,000, remains one of the top destinations for people illegally crossing the border, forcing the city to start rationing public services.  

Beginning February 5, Denver will limit the number of days that immigrants can stay in shelters, said NBC.  

Those who go over the allotment will be turned out on the street, said NBC.  

More money from the state next year will help alleviate DPS’s current funding problem, but it will also take money from other districts around the state. 

And it doesn’t begin to solve the larger crisis created by runaway mass migration, which will shows no signs of slowing. 

“I don’t think we really know when this is going to change or stop,” Carpenter told the Denver Post. “All signs point that this is going to continue to be a challenge in the fall.”