Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Legislative Audit Shows Utah Spending As Much As $85.4 Million Per Year To Educate "Undocumented" Children

A recent legislative audit shows that it costs anywhere between $54.9 million and $85.4 million in state and local funding to educate undocumented children in Utah last year. The report is entitled "A Review of the Public Education Costs of Undocumented Children". This post consolidates and summarizes reports from the Deseret Morning News and KSL Channel 5 in Salt Lake City.

The Salt Lake Tribune also reported on this audit, but cited the range as being between $63 million and $98 million. Unlike the other two reports, the Tribune's report includes Federal costs.

The costs are estimated to comprise two percent of the total $3.1 billion spent on education during FY 2006, according to the Utah Office of Education. The audit further estimated that "undocumented" students comprise anywhere from two to three percent of the total state student population, based on estimates ranging from 10,714 to 16,667 undocumented students out of a total public school student population of 505,185. That number was derived from the Pew Hispanic Center's estimate that there are 75,000 to 100,000 illegal immigrants in Utah, and that the K-12 student population is estimated to be one-sixth or one-seventh of the total number of illegal immigrants.

The audit targetted five school districts — Granite, Ogden, Provo, Salt Lake and Tooele — which represent 80 percent of all "highly impacted school money," which in turn is based in part on the number of low-income and English Language Learner (ELL) students. The Salt Lake, Ogden, and Granite districts (serving the east side of the Salt Lake Valley) are also the most racially-diverse school districts in the state.

However, the audit does not expose the full financial impact. It considers only non-citizen children of illegal immigrants. It does NOT consider the U.S. citizen children of illegal immigrants (all children born on U.S. soil acquire automatic, or "birthright" citizenship, regardless of the nationality or immigration status of their parents). Thus the true costs may be significantly higher.

Click HERE to view the 20-page audit report in PDF format.

Despite the variations and limitations of the report, Utah lawmakers consider it of value. State Senator Margaret Dayton (R-Orem), the chairwoman of the state Senate Education Committee who originally requested the audit, hopes that the audit by the Utah legislative auditor general could help Utah gain some leverage in dealing with the federal government. It's considered timely since U.S. Senators are currently discussing comprehensive immigration reform, and U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has asked for Utah lawmakers' input.

Dayton said the state is in a "lose-lose situation," saying that while the Federal government should pay for the costs of "failed immigration policy," Federal funds typically come with strings attached. She added that this information would help state lawmakers evaluate their own spending on education, saying "maybe we're not charging enough income tax." Unfortunately, Dayton appears to be another one of those who wants to "throw money at the problem", rather than actually question the premise of educating illegals at public expense in the first place.

Utah public schools already have funding sources not available to Alaska public schools, for example. Utah not only has a state income tax and a statewide sales tax, but Utah school districts are also allowed to charge "school impact fees", customarily attached to each real estate transaction. In contrast, the Anchorage (AK) School District relies only on local property taxes and state/Federal funding. Yet Senator Dayton is hinting that not even those extra advantages are enough for Utah.

Unfortunately, the Federal government provides little incentive for Senator Dayton to modify her viewpoint. Richard Gomez, the state's coordinator for education equity, pointed out that U.S. Supreme Court rulings require public schools to educate all children regardless of their immigration status and prohibit schools from asking a student's status. "These kids are supposed to be treated like regular students regardless of their immigration status," he said. "Finger pointing is not appropriate."

The audit was also criticized by Latino community leaders such as Projecto Latino de Utah's Tony Yapias, who estimates that the Latino community brings between $4.5 billion to $5.o billion in spending power to Utah every ear, and who called upon the state to conduct a broader audit, suggesting as a model one done in Texas, which showed undocumented immigrants produced $1.58 billion in state revenues, but that they received only $1.18 billion in state services. This call was echoed by another tax-and-spend Democrat, House Minority Leader Ralph Becker (D-Salt Lake), who claims that "We're really only getting half of the equation. However, Jeff McNeil, chairman of Utah-based Constitution Coalition, said the report is "fine but it doesn't go far enough." He said state officials should also look into the impact of undocumented students on class size and time needed by the teacher for help. "That's an additional cost that can't be accounted for in dollars but it impacts the education of the rest of our students," McNeil said.

The problem with the aforementioned Texas audit cited on page 6 of the Utah audit report is that it states that the Texas analysis did NOT include local government costs of $1.44 billion for law enforcement and uncompensated health care spending on illegal aliens. So when these additional costs are factored in, the adjusted total cost of $2.6 billion spent on illegal aliens outweighs their revenue production of $1.58 billion by OVER $1 billion dollars. Now we're getting closer to the TRUE cost of illegal immigration for our society.

However, a statistical report posted by USA Border Alert in 2006 gets even closer yet. Here are some of the pertinent facts from that report:

- Less than 2% of illegal aliens in the United States are picking crops, but 41% are on welfare.

- Over 70% of the United States annual population growth (and over 90% of California, Florida, and New York) results from immigration.

- The cost of immigration to the American taxpayer in 1997, after subtracting any taxes paid by immigrants, was a net $70 BILLION a year, [Professor Donald Huddle, Rice University] (imagine what that figure must be in 2006).

- The estimated profit to U.S. corporations and businesses employing ILLEGAL aliens in 2005 was more than $2.36 TRILLION dollars.

- The lifetime fiscal impact (taxes paid minus services used) for the average adult Mexican ILLEGAL alien is $55,000.00 cost to the American taxpayer in a 5-year span.

You, personally, are giving $11,000 every year to ILLEGAL aliens.

During a Legislative Audit Subcommittee meeting on Tuesday (May 22nd), state lawmakers voted to send the audit to the interim Education Committee.

Commentary: The difficulty in addressing this problem is that illegal immigrant children are the innocent victims of their parents' sins. Critics of reform brandish a powerful psychological and emotional weapon when they claim we shouldn't make kids pay for the sins of their parents. Some of our most oppressive laws were crafted "for the children". So weak-kneed lawmakers cave in and throw more money at the problem, increasing our tax burden.

The solution is not amnesty. Instead, we must reduce legal immigration to manageable levels and deport nearly all illegal immigrants in order to avoid stirring up false hopes amongst foreigners and prevent them from putting their kids in this position in the first place. We must also reform H-1B laws so foreigners cannot steal jobs from Americans once they arrive, and must also redefine birthright citizenship so that in the case of all babies born on U.S. soil, their parents must provide documented proof of legal residency before the baby can be granted citizenship. And these measures are just for starters.

America is our national home. We have just as much right to regulate who enters our national home as we do to control who enters our personal homes.

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