New immigrant students force school districts to adjust
The flood of undocumented immigrant children on Long Island is forcing school districts to adjust to accommodate the influx of students.
Last year, 3,000 immigrant children arrived on Long Island and enrolled in local schools.
Madelyn and Elsy Bermudez were two of the 80 students that enrolled at Wyandanch High School.
"I feel very happy going to school because everyone is very helpful to me, very welcoming," said Madelyn.
Wyandanch Schools Superintendent Dr. Mary Jones says she's glad to hear that Madelyn is happy and glad to have the students. But the addition of new pupils brings with it some difficult challenges.
"We've had to make several adjustments in our budget," Jones told News 12.
The influx has forced the district to slash some programs. Sports teams and art clubs were cut, and some math and English remedial programs were eliminated. Instead, the money will be used on teachers who specialize in English as a second language.
Currently, Wyandanch High School only has two ESL teachers.
Last year, two Long Island congressmen introduced a bill that would have provided emergency funding for the districts that have received new unaccompanied children. However, a vote never took place. Dr. Jones says the state hasn't helped much either.
"It's very difficult and challenging for us to address all of these issues without the necessary funding that we need," said Jones.
Without that funding, some believe that the financial burden is falling unfairly on local taxpayers.
Hempstead residents say they have had to deal with similar circumstances after 1,000 unaccompanied students were enrolled in the already struggling district.
Despite the stress on schools and taxpayers, federal law says all children are entitled to an education, regardless of their immigration status.
From October 2014 until the end of February this year, there are only four counties in the entire country that have welcomed more unaccompanied children than Suffolk. Nassau County is not far behind.