Sunday, August 29, 2010

Residents of Mexico enrolling in Ajo, AZ schools - Crackdown!

The Supreme Court ruled ages ago that any child present in the United States, legally or not, is entitled (Good God how I hate that concept!) to an education in American public schools.  Note that does not depend on citizenship so even Americans living outside American are not entitled to an American pulic education.  But, the school superintendent in Ajo, AZ has gone too far and not only enrolls schools who live in Mexico, but sends school buses to pick them up right at the border where they cross each morning. What I want to know is, how are these children getting across the border?  Are you telling me that our Border Patrol is so neutered that they can't even stop school children who cross back and forth every week day for 9 months of every year???

AZ State School Superintendent sent his staff down there and recorded the kids coming across and getting on the bus provided by the Ajo School Superintendent.  What more evidence is needed here??

Fortuantely, this will all change Monday when they have to prove actual residence in Arizona.

Ajo students must prove Arizona residency

For years, students living in Mexico crossed the border at Lukeville, boarded a bus and attended the tiny Ajo Unified School District.

But that will change Monday, when classes begin there in southwestern Arizona.

Following a crackdown by Arizona schools chief Tom Horne, students won't be allowed to board the bus unless their parents or guardians prove the children live in the district's boundaries and not in Mexico.

The school district has asked Pima County Schools, which provides the transportation, to confirm the residency of those living in "unorganized territories" and to give those students certificates. Ricardo Hernandez, chief financial officer for Pima County Schools, said a certificate is required to board the bus and that 48 have been issued.

Certificates were not required last year, when 86 students were on the roughly 38-mile trip from Lukeville to Ajo.

Horne, who is running for attorney general in Tuesday's primary election, had his office launch an investigation in 2004 after The Arizona Republic and CNN reported on the matter. The Arizona Department of Education began a new probe last year following new complaints.

Horne's office in May announced it was seeking $1.2 million from the Ajo Unified School District for allegedly using state funds to educate 105 students from Mexico since 2007.

Robert Dooley, Ajo schools superintendent, said the state investigation was flawed and that the district has found at least 60 of the students in question were legal residents.

Dooley said the district has been unable to prove at least 20 of the students were legal residents and that they have been removed from the school's enrollment records.

He said the district still is trying to determine the residency status of the other 25 students.

The controversy in Ajo coincides with the court battle between Arizona and the federal government over the state's tough illegal-immigration law.

A federal judge has put on hold key provisions of the law, which is being appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

However, the issue in Ajo isn't whether the students are in the country legally. It's where they live.

Illegal immigrants can attend Arizona public schools if they reside in the state.

But Horne said it's illegal to receive a free taxpayer-funded education if a student doesn't live in Arizona.

Dooley said his district has "raised the bar" on residency requirements and has offered to settle the case by paying the state $300,000, which likely would result in layoffs of four or five teachers.

The district laid off two teachers for the upcoming school year, and it expects to have 33 teachers for 450 to 475 students.

"For a little-bitty district, that's still a lot of money," Dooley said of the offer.

Dooley said the Department of Education rejected the district's offer and would settle for $700,000.

Horne declined to discuss the settlement negotiations with Ajo, saying that was an issue for attorneys from his office. He said that whatever the amount Ajo will pay, it will serve as a deterrent for other Arizona districts along the border that are willing to educate children from Mexico.

School districts receive state funds based on the number of students they have enrolled.

"If a school wants to do it without charging the state, that's fine with me," Horne said. "But I'm a fiduciary for the state."
This is an old news story but it's still part of the overall problem.

PHOENIX -- The state Department of Education is calling on the Ajo Unified School District to return $1.2 million of state funding, saying the district illegally provided free education to Mexican students.

State schools Superintendent Tom Horne released audit findings that demonstrate the district illegally enrolled non-Arizona resident students at a total cost of nearly $1.2 million from fiscal years 2007, 2008 and 2009.

"The issue here is not citizenship or documentation, but residency," Horne stated. "In this case, 105 students were claiming to live in Arizona, when in fact they reside in Mexico."

Horne said children cross the border daily and take buses to the public schools in Ajo where they have been educated at the expense of Arizona taxpayers.

Horne said the auditors determined that students were claiming residency in uninhabitable trailers, vacant RV spaces and an abandoned motel in Lukeville.

"This practice must stop and I intend to ask that the district refund the money to the taxpayers," Horne said.

The district has 30 days to appeal the findings of the audit to the Arizona State Office of Administrative Hearings.

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