Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Report: California Must Invest in Immigrant Youth Education

As budget cuts impacted California public schools in recent years, immigrant students suffered in the fallout. 

A new report by the Migration Policy Institute, Critical Choices in Post-Recession California: Investing in the Educational and Career Success of Immigrant Youth, depicts California at a crossroads. 

“Integrating immigrant young adults into postsecondary education and the labor force is essential for California’s economic competitiveness,” the report says. “Over the past six years, California has fallen into and emerged from arguably the most severe state budget crisis in the nation—with grave implications for the state’s capacity to produce college-educated workers at the rate it requires.”

A new funding formula that is being phased in that will award more money to school districts with significant numbers of English Language Learners offers some hope. 

But first California must address its challenges. According to the report, the four-year high school graduation rate for ELLs in 2014 was 63 percent, versus 80 percent for all students. 

Given that California has the nation’s largest Latino population, it is alarming how poorly the population is faring. According to the report, Hispanic youth in California born in the United States to immigrant parents are lagging educationally when compared against their peers nationally.

About 16 percent of those second-generation young people in California have at least a two-year degree — compared with about 21 percent nationally (in the years 2009-13).

The report also emphasizes the need to build up adult basic education courses such as English language classes, which were cut back during the recession.

The MPI also examined several school districts, including San Francisco and Los Angeles, and found some promising developments. Those changes include tailoring programs for ELLs and ELL strategy training for teachers.

Some districts also focused on providing expanded learning time, such as summer school. Other expanded opportunities can be born out of partnering with outside organizations on programs for students.

The report strongly emphasizes that given California’s large immigrant population, the country’s future also depends on the success of immigrants in the state.

“We can’t afford to leave behind such a huge part of the school population,” said Christopher Edley, a law professor and former dean at the UC Berkeley law school, reported EdSource. “We have to make a moral commitment that each and every child deserves an effective instructional strategy.”