Illegal Alien Schoolchildren: Issues in Estimating State-by-State Costs

GAO-04-733 Published: Jun 21, 2004. Publicly Released: Jun 21, 2004.
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In 1982 the Supreme Court ruled that states and school districts cannot deny education to illegal alien children residing here. Issues in estimating the costs of providing education to them are of interest because (1) policy discussions concerning illegal immigration often focus on cost impacts; (2) potential costs are borne mostly at the state and local levels; and (3) the Congress could authorize federal reimbursement for benefits provided to illegal aliens, based on estimated state costs or numbers of illegal aliens. The foreign-born population is growing and is concentrated in certain states; the illegal immigrant component is thought to be substantial. Concerns about education costs may reflect "squeezed" state and local budgets, rising school enrollments, and overcrowded schools. To address the potential for estimating the costs of educating illegal alien schoolchildren, this report (1) identifies major government sources of relevant data, (2) describes a Census Bureau plan for developing new information, and (3) outlines costestimation approaches. GAO provided a draft of this report to the National Center for Education Statistics, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Census Bureau. The agencies informed GAO they had no formal comments.

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