Immigration crackdown adds challenge for south Phoenix schools Dezi Meadows, left, and Christina Wright work with building blocks in Barnhizers kindergarten class. Barnhizer began the year with more than 30 students in her classroom. (Cronkite News Service photo by Nick Kosmider) Leslie Barnhizer teaches the only kindergarten class for English-speaking students at Balsz Elementary School in southeast Phoenix; the other three are English Language Learning classes. With enrollment and consequently, state and federal funding dropping annually, the district was unable to hire another kindergarten teacher for native English speakers in 2010. So every English-speaking student who moved into the district was added to Barnhizers already long roster. It is not a unique story. School enrollment numbers have been dropping consistently since 2007 in many Phoenix districts with large Hispanic populations. Superintendents partially blame the economy for this decrease, but they say Arizonas employer sanctions law in 2007 and SB 1070 in 2010 cracking down on illegal immigrants are also key factors. But an unintended consequence of the crackdown is that in some school districts, there has been a noticeable impact on the education of children who are native born, English-speaking, U.S. citizens. One of the reasons why this class is so big is that the kids have to be separated by language ability, and since we have such a high population of kids learning English, the other three [kindergarten] classes are all ELL Barnhizer, 25, said. My class is for the kids who already speak English, so any new kid that speaks English has to go in my room. In 2009, there were two kindergarten classes at Balsz for native English speakers that had 16 and 17 students on the 100th day of school, according to district documents. At the beginning of the 2010 school year, Barnhizer had 35 kids in her class. There wasnt even enough room on the carpet for all of them, and it was just so many kids; its hard to get anything done, the fourth-year teacher said. Last year, when we started the year, there were a lot of kids again similar to this year, and they were able to hire a new teacher to take some of those overflow kids to keep the numbers low, and this year that just wasnt an option. Alhambra, Balsz and Cartwright elementary districts all have Hispanic enrollments of more than 70 percent, according to data provided by the Arizona Department of Education. On average, these districts have lost more than 13 percent of their students in the last four years. Alhambra Superintendent Karen Williams said her districts numbers were not declining until the employer sanctions law passed in July 2007. The Arizona law prohibits employers from knowingly hiring illegal immigrants and offers E-Verify, a federal online system, to help employers determine employee eligibility. At the onset of E-Verify, we began to see a decrease in our population, Williams said. Now we have new information in terms of citizenship and those questions, and we believe that has kept that decline steady. Superintendents Michael Martinez and Jeffrey Smith of the Cartwright and Balsz districts agreed that the immigration laws have affected enrollment. After the 2007 law, parents told Balsz employees they were leaving Arizona because they couldnt find a job, Smith said. However, Martinez and Smith also believe the economy was a major contributor to their losses. The decline in the construction industry hurt enrollment because much of the districts populations worked in the field and had to leave the area when employment options dropped significantly, Martinez said. Tourism also played a part in the Balsz district, Smith said, since the areas economy is largely based on it. The effects of SB 1070, however, cant be refuted, even though the main provisions of the law have been stayed. At the end of the school year in May, Barnhizer and all three superintendents said parents and students often told school employees they were leaving the state because of the new law. Strangely enough, not all of them are undocumented, Martinez said. Some of them are just saying, Im not from Arizona, Im Hispanic, and I just dont feel like its a friendly state anymore. A recent study by BBVA Bancomer Research estimated that there were 100,000 fewer Hispanics in Arizona in November than at the beginning of the year. While the study could not yet specifically determine where Hispanics were moving, it said that some have moved to other U.S. states while others, perhaps a minority, have moved back to their countries of origin, mostly Mexico. Unintended Consequences Though the backers of these laws have said they were intended to force undocumented immigrants out of the state, drops in student enrollment impact all Arizona school districts. With fewer students enrolled at the schools, districts receive less funding from the state and federal government each year. State funding is based on average daily membership, ADM, according to Yousef Awwad, director of school finance at the Arizona Department of Education. The state calculates how much funding each district should get for one school year based on its enrollment numbers during the first 100 days of the previous year, he said. Since 2007, Cartwright, the second largest elementary district in the state with close to 18,000 students, has lost more than 2,000 kids, resulting in a funding cut between $11 million and $13 million and the loss of 300 teachers and a school, Martinez said. Smith said Balsz, which is a much smaller district with fewer than 3,000 students, is down 147 kids this year and is losing $18,000 a day. Alhambras enrollment has dropped 500 students this year, and Williams expects it to cost the district about $2.5 million next year. With more cuts, fewer teachers are hired and class sizes grow. Martinez said that not every class is able to stay at the 25-student standard. For instance, at Balsz Elementary School in the 2009 school year, the average class size for all types of classes exceeded 25 students in two grade levels, third and fourth grades. In 2010, however, all grades but second and third had more than 25 kids in a classroom, according to district documents. While larger class sizes are impact both English-proficient and English Language Learner, local school district have more leeway to allow larger classroom size for English-proficient students. State regulations keep ELL class sizes smaller. According to the Arizona English Language Learners Task Force, ELL classes cant exceed 23 or 28 students per teacher, depending on their level of proficiency. Standard class sizes, however, are determined by each district, said Amy Rezzonico, spokesperson for the Department of Education. So when schools have no choice but to expand class sizes because hiring more teachers isnt an option, the English-speaking students are hit harder. Barnhizer said these problems regrettably affect the students, because larger class sizes mean less individual attention for kids. In the lower grades especially, we teach a lot in small groups, she said. With more kids, I have to have more groups, which means I meet with each group less time, so that impacts the kids. Students are affected in other ways as well that dont involve class sizes. Martinez said the short-term effect of budget cuts have been devastating. Read more at: Arizona Capitol Times » Blog Archive » Immigration crackdown adds challenge for south Phoenix schools ---------------------------------------------------- Once again, REAL Americans and Americans of other ethnic groups must suffer because of the effects of the invasion of the United States by Latin America. We must stop this Latino Only helping hand and force those who created the problem to pay for it.