New York state officials issued a stern warning to school districts on Monday, cautioning against implementing policies that hinder the enrollment of migrant children, and emphasizing that such practices could result in lawsuits and fines. Attorney General Letitia James and state Education Commissioner Betty Rosa raised concerns about discriminatory practices observed in some districts, including requirements for voter IDs, proof of residency, and formal leases during student registration.
In a joint letter released on Monday, the officials underscored their discovery of these problematic enrollment policies, which could potentially infringe on constitutional and statutory protections. They highlighted that the state law guarantees a free public education to all children between the ages of 5 and 21, regardless of their citizenship or immigration status.
The officials emphasized that every individual residing in New York is considered a New Yorker and is entitled to the educational opportunities provided by the state. They warned that any policies impeding the enrollment of noncitizens, undocumented students, and those without formal leases could lead to legal consequences for school districts.
The concern arises as the state braces for an influx of asylum-seeking children and migrants, particularly in New York City, which is expecting a substantial number of new students in its public schools this upcoming year. Despite the challenges posed by this situation, the state officials stressed that school districts must fulfill their responsibility to accept and provide educational support services for all students and their families.
This warning follows Governor Kathy Hochul’s criticism of the handling of the crisis, urging President Biden’s administration to take more proactive measures, including providing shelters, funding, and expedited work authorizations for migrants. Meanwhile, Mayor Eric Adams urged the governor to seek a state of emergency declaration from the president to unlock federal funds for addressing the issue.