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Salt Lake City Schools Look At Costs Of Undocumented Students

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Summary: If you want to stir up a frenzy of controversy, just ask families in Salt Lake City Schools what they think about educating the children of illegal immigrants. The answers will be diverse and impassioned. Based on numbers provided by the Utah Office of Education state schools, including Salt Lake City Schools, spend about $5,140 annually per pupil. A recent audit titled "A Review of the Public Education Costs of Undocumented Children" recently threw some fuel into the fire. T...

If you want to stir up a frenzy of controversy, just ask families in Salt Lake City Schools what they think about educating the children of illegal immigrants. The answers will be diverse and impassioned. Based on numbers provided by the Utah Office of Education state schools, including Salt Lake City Schools, spend about $5,140 annually per pupil. A recent audit titled "A Review of the Public Education Costs of Undocumented Children" recently threw some fuel into the fire. The audit, performed by the Utah Office Legislative Auditor General, reports that the state spends over $63 million annually on undocumented students. Residents and state representatives of Salt Lake City Schools are engaged in a heated dialogue regarding the accuracy of that number. The study claims that educating a Salt Lake City Schools' students who is undocumented costs $100-$400 more annually due to the need for special language and low-income programs. This matter is of special interest to the Salt Lake City Schools because administrators have been trying to use available funds to meet rising standards in cost-efficient and effective ways. A look at the recent initiatives in Salt Lake City Schools reveals numerous efforts like vouchers, school choice and charter schools in the city's attempt to improve education. Many representatives of Salt Lake City Schools interpret the audit to show that educating undocumented students comes at the detriment of the rest of the population. Others, like House Minority Leader Ralph Becker, D-Salt Lake City, feel that the audit is giving an unbalanced view of the big picture. Salt Lake City Schools have residents who feel that undocumented workers still pay taxes and contribute to the thriving economy of the region. The Salt Lake Tribune recently issued an editorial that questioned the statistics used in creating the audit. The editorial claims that that estimates of the 75,000-100,000 undocumented immigrants were used to make guesses as to the number of K-12 students. The paper calls this bad reporting. What do the residents of Salt Lake City Schools need to know? It seems to be undisputed that educating Salt Lake City Schools' undocumented immigrant population does require some special teaching skills to address language and economic barriers. But does it necessarily follow that the end result will be to refuse to educate those Salt Lake City Schools' students? And is that really want anybody wants? Senator Margaret Dayton, R-OremA, who originally requested the audit, has indicated that her main concern is that state and local governments are paying for the federal government's failed immigration policy. However, the end result of all this political posturing will have a huge affect on families of Salt Lake City Schools. The big question remains: Does the additional cost of educating the undocumented children of Salt Lake City Schools eliminate the requirement to provide those students with tax-funded education?
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