The cost of educating border-crossing children
POSTED: 9:01 p.m. EDT, April 29, 2007 CNN News Online
HOUSTON, Texas (AP) — Thousands of Mexican children are flocking across the U.S. border to attend school, sparking a debate in towns along the border over whether U.S. taxpayers should have to bear the costs of educating them.
The border crossing is so common in El Paso that officials opened a special lane just for students this month.
The Houston Chronicle reported Sunday that more than 1,200 people passed through that lane from Mexico on a recent morning.
Some were college or private school students, but many were coming to attend public schools.
The influx has prompted complaints from those opposed to spending U.S. tax dollars to teach students from Mexico.
The issue is especially timely in El Paso, where the school district — which expects to take in 10,000 new students in the next five to eight years — is preparing for a $230 million bond election for new schools next month.
Elaine Hampton, a professor at the University of Texas-El Paso, says the strained state of public education in Mexico pushes many students across the Rio Grande, just as the hope of better jobs entices their parents.
The growth of Mexican border towns like Ciudad Juarez far outpaces the government’s ability to build schools, Hampton said, forcing many to turn away students. Mexican schools also can be too expensive for some parents, charging fees for books, photocopies and sometimes even the cost of administering a test.
Although many school officials are unhappy about the situation, they say there are few ways to control the number of Mexican residents attending their schools.
As long as a parent or guardian has proof of residency in that school district — such as a water bill or lease — their child can attend. Many of the students were born in U.S. hospitals, making them U.S. citizens who live in Mexico. Others use the addresses of American friends or relatives.
Community pressure has pushed other districts to crack down on those who violate residency requirements.
Susan Carlson, a spokeswoman for the United ISD in Laredo, said her district’s schools are extra vigilant with residency checks and recently began fining students found breaking residency rules.
Luis Villalobos, a spokesman for the El Paso Independent School District, said the district has seven officers checking out potentially false addresses.
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.