Textbook Case: Texas School District Flounders Under Biden’s Border Failure
This year, FAIR calculated that illegal immigration is costing Americans nearly $80 billion in added K-12 education expenditures. A deep dive into one rural Texas school district highlights a fiscal, academic and social collapse in the making.
Though Cleveland Independent School District (CISD), in Liberty, Texas, is 400 miles from the southern border, it has been inundated by thousands of migrant children. In the past decade, enrollment has tripled to more than 10,000, with the Hispanic student cohort — including large numbers of non-English speakers — soaring from 40 percent to 90 percent.
As President Joe Biden’s sieve-like immigration policies flood America with border crossers, CISD projects that its enrollment will double in size by 2026, with migrant children continuing to drive the increase. Per a narrow 5-4 Supreme Court ruling in 1982, Plyler v. Doe, all K-12 public schools must enroll whoever shows up on the doorstep.
Amid the migrant crush, CISD figures it will have to spend $1.2 billion to build 20 new campuses over the next 10 years. Voters passed an $85 million bond in 2017, and another for $198 million in 2019. But taxpayers are showing signs of bond exhaustion. Subsequent bonds totaling $265 million were rejected in 2021 and 2022. This district will try again this year, with uncertain prospects. Social media postings voice rising concerns about the surging immigrant population.
After Christmas Break in 2021, CISD campuses reopened to a whopping 1,200 new students. With 55 percent unable to speak English proficiently, CISD imports teachers from Mexico and points south on H-1B worker visas. The district also pays $4,000 annual stipends to help keep them around. The complexities of federal regulations required the hiring of a full-time attorney.
Whatever small-town feel CISD had is gone. Metal detectors are now the norm, as are mile-long traffic backups outside schools that are bursting at the seams.
“[It’s] crowd control, not education,” a teacher told Todd Bensman, who investigated CISD for the Center for Immigration Studies.
Strained by classroom crowding and deteriorating finances, CISD’s academic performance is spiraling down. Asked how students are doing on statewide tests, Superintendent Stephen McCanless replies: “How do you think?”
His district’s average test ranking is a lowly 2/10, among the worst in Texas. Cleveland Middle School earned a “D” grade from the state, with 55.8 percent of its 2,238 students considered at risk of dropping out.
(The statewide curve is slumping as Texas ranks second behind California – another high-migrant state – for its percentage of residents ages 25 and older who never completed ninth grade. Texas also finishes second to last behind California in its percentage of high school dropouts.)
None of this is surprising as growing numbers of migrant children take standardized exams in a language they barely comprehend. Cost-intensive ESL (English as a Second Language) programs simply cannot keep up, and spell out the inexorable trouble ahead.
Bensman calls schools “canaries in the coal mine of the Biden border crisis.” For all the president’s chirping about the supposed benefits of his mass immigration agenda, the beleaguered community of Liberty, Texas, is looking rather peaked these days.