Registration declines may be tied to immigration law
April 21, 2008
Parker and Betty Reid, The Arizona Republic; Republic reporter Jennifer Kitson
contributed to this article.
Mesa and several
Phoenix districts had significant enrollment declines after the holiday break in
January, which officials blame on several factors, including a new state law
that punishes businesses for hiring undocumented workers.
Overall, more than 1,000 students did not return to classes at Mesa Public
Schools from the beginning of the school year in October to mid-year in January.
The state's new sanctions law took effect Jan. 1. Under the law, employers who
knowingly hire illegal workers face the threat of losing their business
Many undocumented immigrants have reported plans to leave the state because
employers, wary of the new laws, are reluctant to hire them.
"It's not entirely unexpected with this immigration law that came online January
1," Mesa school-board member David Lane said. "I have a sense unless the court
intervenes, more will leave at end of the school year (in May)."
While districts often post declines midyear because of transfers, several
districts showed significant enrollment declines this year.
At the Alhambra Elementary School District in west Phoenix, where enrollment
numbers have been declining since spring 2007, officials will have $2 million
less next school year because of the enrollment skid.
"In speaking to our community, they would share with me that undocumented
families who attended our schools were concerned and they were fearful that they
would be deported and their children would be left here," Alhambra
Superintendent Jim Rice said.
Still, the slipping student enrollment did not generally happen in high schools.
The Phoenix Union High School District enrolled 569 more students after the
winter break in January.
Phoenix Union spokesman Craig Pletenik said the employer-sanctions law worried
some high-school students, but he said the teens ended up remaining in Phoenix
rather than leaving the state with their families.
Dennis Dowling, director of student achievement at Tolleson Union High School
District, agreed, especially for teens older than 16.
"If the families are leaving," he said, "they're finding places for the teenage
kids to live."
Section: VALLEY & State
Record Number: pho100888813