Refugee Relocation Reality Comes to KS

Published on November 20th, 2015

“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

In August, I wrote about the Wichita K-12 school system and its enrollment that includes speakers of 81 different languages. Officially called English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), the program is offered to students who are part of the huge refugee wave that has overwhelmed many U.S. school districts, and is expected to put additional strain on the education system as more migrants resettle in America.

When federal and state leaders advocate for more refugees, their talking points are feel-good appeals to Americans’ common decency. But once the refugees arrive, reality quickly sets in.

Refugee students place unfair burden on American kids, teachers.

The latest news from Wichita shows that trying to educate so many students with such varied backgrounds requires a lot of money but with no guarantee of success. The school district has submitted a request to Gov. Brownback and the State Finance Council for $1 million to help provide “emotional support” to help the students cope with post-traumatic stress disorder.

When Brownback was in Congress, he compiled a dismal D immigration grade that included an F- on reducing refugee and asylum fraud. Earlier this year, Brownback was one of ten Republican leaders who signed onto an appeal to their congressional colleagues to “to uphold the nation’s promise to oppressed people who yearn to live in freedom….” Watch Brownback extol immigration to The Wall Street Journal here.

Enrolling thousands of students from distant countries who speak dozens of languages is a raw deal for the American kids and their teachers. Take it from me who spent a quarter of a century in English as a Second Language classes – teachers have no choice but to focus most of their time on the newcomers, while the American students go wanting.

When the teachers were earning their education degrees, they didn’t envision classrooms full of refugees, and trying to make themselves understood to speakers of 81 languages. As much as teachers may want to help and as sympathetic as they are to their refugee students’ plights, the task is overwhelming.

Teachers are leaving Kansas in droves. Among the reasons they publicly cite are budget cuts that have reduced their salaries and left their classrooms underfunded. Another reason is too politically incorrect to say out loud: the emotional strain of trying to educate huge numbers of students from diverse cultures. While teachers don’t talk about it to the media, the challenges of educating refugees is the No. 1 topic in the lunchroom.

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