Breaking the Piggy Bank: How Illegal Immigration is Sending Schools Into the Red

With states straining under gaping budget shortfalls, public schools throughout the country are facing some of the most significant decreases in state education funding in decades. In some states, drastic cuts mean lay-offs for teachers, larger class sizes, fewer textbooks, and eliminating sports, language programs, and after-school activities. Nearly two-thirds of the states have cut back or proposed reductions in support for childcare and early childhood programs. Some are even shortening the school week from five days to four.

While these massive budget deficits cannot be attributed to any single source, the enormous impact of large-scale illegal immigration cannot be ignored. The total K-12 school expenditure for illegal immigrants costs the states nearly $12 billion annually, and when the children born here to illegal aliens are added, the costs more than double to $28.6 billion.1

This enormous expenditure of the taxpayers’ hard-earned contributions does not, however, represent the total costs. Special programs for non-English speakers are an additional fiscal burden as well as a hindrance to the overall learning environment. A recent study found that dual language programs represent an additional expense of $290 to $879 per pupil depending on the size of the class.2 In addition, because these children of illegal aliens come from families that are most often living in poverty, there is also a major expenditure for them on supplemental feeding programs in the schools. Those ancillary expenditures have not been included in the calculations in this report.

The data presented here provide yet one more illustration of the costs of turning a blind eye to illegal immigration and should provide further impetus for states to demand that the federal government finally take effective and decisive action to restore integrity to our nation's immigration laws.3

Providing K–12 Education to Illegal Immigrants: Costs to States
The 1.5 million school-aged illegal immigrants residing in the United States4 and their 2 million U.S.-born siblings can be divided among the states using government estimates of the illegal alien population.5 Using each state’s per-pupil expenditure reported by the U.S. Department of Education,6 cost estimates for educating illegal immigrants in each state are shown below.

The calculation of the number of children of illegal aliens in the K-12 public school system indicates that more than 15 percent of California’s students are children of illegal aliens, as are more than ten percent of the students in Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, and Texas. More than five percent of the students are the children of illegal aliens in Florida, Georgia, Kansas, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, and Washington.

Defenders of illegal aliens assert that the cost of educating illegal alien students is offset by the taxes paid by their parents, but study after study shows that immigrants cost taxpayers much more in public services used than they pay into the system via taxes.7 This is particularly true of illegal immigrants, who are disproportionately low-skilled and thus low-earning and are much more likely to be working in the underground economy or providing contractual services and not withholding taxes.

A look at the top ten highest state expenditures provides a stark illustration of the trade-offs for accommodating large-scale illegal immigration:8

In California, the $7.7 billion spent annually educating the children of illegal immigrantsâ€