Advocates and a Hempstead schools official joined Thursday in asking for as much as $11.5 million in state funds to support Long Island school districts and communities affected by the recent influx of immigrant children from Central America.
The advocates, who have been making the rounds to legislative offices, delivered letters to the office of Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) -- whose district includes the Uniondale and Hempstead schools attended by many immigrant students.
A letter from James Clark, associate superintendent in Hempstead, urged state senators to back aid because "schools urgently need this money to provide materials and to hire and train bilingual teachers to serve these newly arrived students."
His district landed in a firestorm when advocates and parents said last fall that immigrant children were being turned away for lack of room, leading to state probes that ultimately put Hempstead's enrollment under monitoring by the state attorney general's office.
Francis Madi, organizer for the New York Immigration Coalition, said without aid "many of these school districts are going to continue to struggle, a lot of teachers are going to start losing their jobs" because of added costs. Schools would get $10 million of the aid and $1.5 million would pay for legal and mental health services, Madi said.
More than 3,000 children, who crossed into the United States illegally as unaccompanied minors as they fled poverty and crime in Central America, were resettled with Long Island relatives and sponsors in the federal fiscal year ended last September. Another 455 minors were resettled in Nassau and Suffolk counties between October 2014 and this April.
Hannon had not reviewed the request but said he'd consider an aid proposal. "I do believe the state should help when there is an unexpected influx," Hannon said. "I don't know if it's too much or too little. I don't know how many districts would be covered. We've not gotten a good report on the number of children" enrolled.
Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) said he was working on a state bill, but "at this late time it's probably unlikely legislation will pass" before the session ends June 17. "Many of us believe that this is clearly the purview of the federal government" but don't want to wait as local districts struggle.
Reps. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) and Peter King (R-Seaford) reintroduced Wednesday a bill for federal aid of $12,000 per immigrant child enrolled since the 2012-13 school year.