Immigration Law Cited For Enrollment Decline

Immigration law cited for enrollment decline

Ray Parker
The Arizona Republic
Oct. 17, 2007 02:31 PM

Mesa Public Schools' alarming drop in enrollment this year comes largely in its elementary schools and almost exclusively in west Mesa, where there is a high Hispanic population, according to October district enrollment figures.

The district will have to wrangle with the fallout that comes with 1,295 fewer students, who could account for a drop of up to $5 million in funding from the state.

Other Southeast Valley districts have shown enrollment increases, so the Mesa exodus is largely unexplained.

Mesa school board member Mike Hughes, citing enrollment declines in Tucson, said charter schools aren't drawing away students as some have suggested. Some board members said the drop could be attributed to the district reaching its building capacity and the transformation of older neighborhoods.

Many are pointing to a state law that takes effect Jan. 1 that penalizes employers of undocumented immigrants, whose children attend public schools no-questions-asked.

Board member David Lane said he knows of families moving to New Mexico.

“I've seen some families leave and maybe some won't arrive that normally would have,” he said. “I think that (the new law) will have an effect on schools and a lot of other things.”

Mesa saw a drop of 1,217 elementary school students this year. At 28 elementary schools, there are student reductions resulting in the elimination of at least one classroom, and in 17 of those schools, at least two classes were eliminated.

There also are 621 fewer junior high students and 19 fewer high school students, according to attendance figures from the district. However, there were 616 additional students in district alternative schools, so the total number lost is 1,295.

Mesa officials are facing some guess work as they near May, when contracts are offered to teachers for the next school year. In recent years, the state Legislature has not approved district budgets by then.

“We send out contracts based on what we think it (funding) will be,” Burnham said. “It's a problem with declines.”

Mesa schools, steadily declining in recent years, plummeted this year.

Two years ago, there were about 700 fewer students enrolled than the previous year, while last year there was about a drop off 550.

Fewer students mean less money from the state, which pays public schools according to enrollment.

Fewer students

Mesa Public Schools have almost 1,300 fewer students this school year than last, according to October enrollment figures.

Administrators will likely have to figure out how to reduce up to $5 million in operational expenses in next year's budget, which they will begin to analyze in January and approve by July 1.

Here are the schools showing the largest declines, by grade level.


Emerson, 415 N. Westwood, down 109

Eisenhower, 848 N. Mesa Drive, down 92

Edison, 545 N. Horne, down 70

Junior high

Powell, 855 W. Eighth Ave., down 142

Kino, 848 N. Horne, down 102

Brimhall, 4949 E. Southern Ave., down 86

High school

Mountain View, 2700 E. Brown Road, down 144

Westwood, 945 W. Eighth Street, down 95

Dobson, 1501 W. Guadalupe Road, down 81 []