Supporting Newcomer Students With Fed Policy Adjustments

According to a report published by Next 100, a progressive policy think tank, in order to better support K-12 services for immigrant and refugee students, federal policy and financial adjustments are desperately needed.

Among the Next 100 report’s recommendations is a call to replace the limitations for subgrant funding dedicated to English learners and immigrant students in Title III of The Elementary and Secondary Education Act with the establishment of a formula grant system for Title III immigrant subgrants.

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According to the think tank’s report, the growth in the English learner population, as well as the recent arrivals of refugee and unaccompanied children, makes this a critical issue for educators. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), between October 1, 2021 and July 2022, about 108,000 unaccompanied children were released to sponsors—a truly staggering number, and one that schools need help accommodating.

“As the first major institution that students encounter upon their arrival to the U.S., it is our duty to equip schools with meeting that challenge for every child to thrive,” writes Alejandra Vázquez Baur, the report’s author and a policy entrepreneur at Next 100.

Awareness and support for newcomer students must be built, says Next 100. In August, a group of 80 educators from around the country, as well as researchers, parents, and advocacy organizations, asked the Department of Education to help accomplish this goal by providing curriculum resources and professional development, setting common data collection definitions, and holding a national conference to encourage collaboration for student supports.

According to the Next 100 report, Title III Immigrant subgrants are capped at 15%, and today’s funding method allows states to allocate less than that amount, which hinders the abilities of districts’ to access enough funding.

Looking forward, Next 100 suggests these allocations should be standardized, which would make districts better able to plan for the long-term sustainability of resources both when immigrant students arrive and throughout their first years in U.S. schools.