New report details the enormous strain illegal immigration is putting on public schools

Mass illegal immigration during the Biden administration has cost the nation’s public schools more than a billion dollars, a recent report estimates.

“Since public schools must enroll minors…

Mass illegal immigration during the Biden administration has cost the nation’s public schools more than a billion dollars, a recent report estimates.

“Since public schools must enroll minors regardless of immigration status, unchecked illegal migration over the past three years has possibly cost the public education system billions of dollars,” write Heritage Foundation authors, Madison Marino, Matthew Kuckelman, Lindsey Burke and Lora Ries.

The report, titled The Consequences of Unchecked Illegal Immigration on America’s Public Schools, estimates that in just four states – California, New York, Arizona and Texas – the cost of illegal immigration absorbed by public schools has been nearly “three-quarters of a billion dollars,” for fiscal year 2023 alone. 

“Nationwide, the CBP [U.S. Customs and Border Protection] encountered 145,474 accompanied and unaccompanied minors in FY 2023,” said the authors. “Based on the national average spending of $16,345 per student, if each such child enrolled in public school in FY 2023, it would increase national education spending by more than $2 billion for one year.”  

The Lion previously detailed how illegal immigration is causing chaos and budget troubles for public schools systems in Denver and New York City.  

In New York, Mayor Eric Adams estimated the crisis will cost the city at least $12 billion over three years if the illegal aliens continue to arrive in the same numbers as they have the previous three years. The city had a $15.1 billion budget for K–12 schools in 2023.  

In recent testimony to the Immigration Integrity, Security, and Enforcement Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, Steven A. Camarota, Director of the Research Center for Immigration Studies, testified that the costs are staggering if one includes the children born to illegal immigrants already in the U.S. 

“Based on average costs per student, the estimated 4 million children of illegal immigrants in public schools created $68.1 billion in costs in 2019,” he said. “The vast majority of these children are U.S.-born.”  

But, the impact of the immigration crisis go beyond mere dollars to educate illegal immigrants.  

In some localities, for example, Heritage pointed out that schools are being closed so they can be used to house illegal immigrants. 

In January, students at James Madison High School in Brooklyn, New York, were forced to adopt remote learning reminiscent of the COVID-19 pandemic after their high school was used as a shelter for illegal immigrants. 

“At two Texas high schools in the Austin Independent School District, teachers were forced to instruct students in hallways and conference rooms to accommodate the 400-plus migrant children who were recently enrolled,” said the Heritage authors.  

Heritage also cited the additional challenges posed by having to instruct an influx of children who largely are ignorant of the English language. 

The issue was so acute, it’s caused one Utah lawmaker to propose an amendment to the state’s constitution prohibiting the children of illegal immigrants from getting a public education at taxpayers’ expense. 

“We say, ‘Hey, here’s a bunch of kids, they don’t even speak English, but it’s your problem. Here you go,’” said Republican state Rep. Trevor Lee, a Republican. “And that’s not right.” 

For its part, Heritage has made a series of policy recommendations to address the financial crisis for public schools. 

Heritage wants public schools to be required to collect anonymous immigration status information so that states and the federal government can get a better handle on the costs associated with educating children of illegal immigrants. 

They’d also like to see a ban on the use of public school facilities to house illegal immigrants.  

Heritage’s biggest policy recommendation, however, is to charge tuition to illegal immigrants.  

The report’s authors admit it would require a Supreme Court decision to implement, because the court has already found that public schools must provide free education to illegal immigrants (Plyler v. Doe). 

“This reconsideration [by the Supreme Court of Plyler v. Doe] is warranted because the large number of unaccompanied alien children and mass illegal migration have significantly changed circumstances for states and localities,” the Heritage authors concluded.