TEA’s position states that the responsibility for the education of school-aged children who are residing in federal facilities in the state of Texas lies solely with the U. S. government.
Earlier this year, San Benito CISD executed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Southwest Key Program to place teachers and administrators to provide for the education of students in its care. As a school district, fundamentally, we felt legally and ethically obligated to provide the same quality educational services and resources that we would afford to any student that resides within our district, regardless of their immigration status.
In an August 23, 2018 letter to Southwest Key, Heather Mauzé, Director for the Division of Charter Schools at TEA stated, “Local educational agencies that wish to provide services to unaccompanied alien children in federal custody may do so on a contractual or tuition fee basis but may not do so with state education funding. The legal obligation to provide educational services to children in federal detention lies with the federal government.” This afternoon, TEA released correspondence in regard to this issue, officially stating its position that the federal government is responsible for the education of such children.
This news comes as a surprise to us. As we were in the planning and development phases of this program to provide for the education of students residing at the Southwest Key facilities within the San Benito school district, we were in constant and close communication with TEA to ensure that our administrative procedures to add the campuses and the students to our district were aligned with TEA requirements, standards and guidelines. There was never any indication that TEA would not be open to utilizing state resources to fund the education of these students within our district.
Without the assurance of state funding, San Benito CISD is not in any position to expend district resources nor is there any indication that we it will receive funding directly from a ‘contractual or tuition fee basis.’
While we are disappointed in TEA’s decision, fortunately, our school board trustees and administrators had the foresight to staff our campuses conservatively. As the district has seen an increase in enrollment numbers this academic year requiring additional teachers at several campuses, the resources that had been allocated to the Southwest Key programs will be absorbed and redirected within the district, at no financial loss or negative impact to the district. As educators, we were simply trying to do the right thing for these children. Unfortunately, the education of these students in our San Benito district, is now out of our hands.