Students walk to class at Bear Valley Middle School. The Escondido Union School District has offered a hybrid model that includes in-person instruction. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

A new study this week estimates that more school-aged children immigrated to California in recent years than any other state.

The study, performed by the RAND Corporation, specifically attempted to estimate the number of “undocumented and asylum-seeking children” who entered the country between 2017 and 2019 and continue to be enrolled in the K-12 system.

Public schools in the United States are required to educate all children, regardless of their immigration status.

Understanding where vulnerable students are located could help school districts better prepare and redistribute resources to help migrant students, the study’s authors wrote.

California’s K-12 schools are home to 51,600 migrant students, who immigrated between 2017 and 2019, RAND estimates. (Texas was close behind with 48,200.) Of those, just 1,500 are currently enrolled in San Diego County schools, the authors estimate. The vast majority – 30,400 – attend Los Angeles County schools.

Making sure vulnerable students get the right kind of visibility in public schools is, obviously, important. Most migrant students need help coming to grips with a new language, but not all districts manage to provide that support. In 2019, state auditors called out San Diego Unified for what they believed were serious flaws in the district’s English learner program.

As school budgets get slashed, English learner services are frequently the first to go. Back in 2014, San Diego Unified slashed the number of English language support teachers who were stationed at school sites – a move bemoaned by many.

It hasn’t been all bad news at San Diego Unified, though. Some schools have excelled at helping migrant students succeed in a new environment.

One more note on the RAND study: It mentions that in recent years there have been “record numbers” of migrant children crossing the southwestern border.

California Department of Education data on migrant students has fluctuated greatly in recent years. States are required to track migrant students who have been in the country three years or less, but this count includes migrants who are authorized to be in the United States.

In 2012-13, state officials counted roughly 66,000 migrant students.

In 2016-17, the count peaked with roughly 117,000.

It’s been steadily going down ever since. For 2020-21, officials counted 73,318 migrant students, according to Department of Education data. Of those, 12,449 went to school in San Diego County.

What We’re Writing

New lawsuits show that the now infamous A3 chain of charter school invested public funds in a handful of other charter-friendly states. A court-appointed receiver is now trying to track those funds down and bring them back to California.

Will Huntsberry

Will Huntsberry is a senior investigative reporter at Voice of San Diego.

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