Rising immigration rates are revealing fractures in the New York City public education system.
NYC education officials recently reported that growing populations in dense areas are overwhelming some schools.
More than 100,000 asylum seekers came to NYC in the past year, CBS reported.
“The problem that we have is that because of where they are in these temporary shelters, they’re limited to the number of schools that we’re really able to send them (to),” said NYC Schools Chancellor David Banks. “So some schools have seen a little bit more overcrowding.”
In addition to schools being overwhelmed, some groups are also concerned about immigrant students’ vaccination status.
State representatives are calling for Gov. Kathy Hochul to do more to address the crisis.
“This is taxing our social services,” said Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay, R-Pulaski. “It is taxing our law enforcement, and it’s certainly … taxing our citizens in our communities.”
Education policy analyst Emily D’Vertola emphasized the challenge of supporting English-language learners, too. Phonics, or the the science of reading, is an important part of this effort, she says.
“There are many ways to support English language learners in the classroom,” D’Vertola told The Lion. “Qualified teachers, paraprofessionals and pathology specialists should be staffed appropriately. Mayor Adams should continue ensuring all schools are teaching a phonics-informed reading program.”
New York has one of the highest immigrant populations in the U.S., ranking third behind California and New Jersey.
This influx of new students comes on the tail of a new state measure mandating smaller class sizes, which will cost $2 billion in new teacher salaries.
And NYC already spends nearly $40,000 per K-12 student, a cost equivalent to the average private university tuition.
Immigrant children have the potential to put additional strain on New York’s already fragile public education system.
In addition to asylum seekers and other legal means of entering the country, illegal immigration adds roughly $7.6 billion to public education costs, according to The Hill. English Language Learners (ELLs) also cost thousands more per pupil to educate.
However, New York test scores from 2021 reveal that ELLs benefit very little from public schools, even by the education establishment’s own standards.
Only 12% of ELLs read proficiently by 8th grade. Scores in math and science are equally dismal at 13%.
And just 16% of students pass the New York State English as a Second Language Achievement Test.
“English language learners, statewide, face persistent achievement gaps from their peers on our state assessments,” D’Vertola told The Lion. “With a simple, student-centered funding formula, where money is accurately tied to schools’ yearly enrollment and level of needs, we could allocate resources more effectively.”
She explained that immigrant families are trapped by their zip code and income level and often cannot enroll in schools with special resources for ELLs, charter schools, or even simply higher performing public schools.
“But in NY, only families who can afford it can choose among schools,” D’Vertola continued. “There are no formal choice programs to help marginalized families access some of these options.”