Education

Kansas School District Seeks $1 Million In Emergency Funds To Handle Influx Of Refugee Students

Reuters

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter

The Wichita, Kansas school district is seeking nearly $1 million in extraordinary needs funds from the state to help handle an expected influx of refugee students.

According to the Wichita Eagle, the school district expects to enroll up to 150 new refugee students this year. Last year, 132 refugees were enrolled in city schools. With the influx and some attrition, the district expects to have 220 enrolled in all — an 88 percent increase year over year.

“Episcopal Wichita Area Refugee Ministries and the International Rescue Committee in Wichita have each received allocations and are actively relocating refugees to Wichita,” Jim Freeman, the Wichita school district’s chief financial officer, wrote to the state on Monday, according to The Eagle.

“As a result the district is seeing a dramatic increase in the number of school-aged students who are refugees from Burma, Somalia and the Congo region of Africa. Some have lived in refugee camps for decades; all are fleeing persecution, oppression and war.”

The school district is one of 38 in the state that have applied for extraordinary needs funds. The fund was created as part of a new block grant school finance system that was signed into law earlier this year. The new system does not automatically increase funding for districts for increased student enrollment.

Besides the costs associated with accommodating the additional students, the refugee students will require special services from the school district.

“Not only do they have huge learning gaps, they also have difficulty adjusting from refugee camp survival mode to a new country, culture and classrooms,” Freeman wrote in his plea for the extraordinary needs funds.

“Students exhibit post-traumatic stress syndrome, emotional handicaps and behavior issues which impact learning, participation and performance in class.”

To help the students, the school district says it needs eight teachers, two counselors to help students with PTSD and eight paraprofessionals to help students learn English.

A spokeswoman for the Wichita school district told The Daily Caller that it receives no grants through the Episcopal Wichita Area Refugee Ministries or International Rescue Mission. Nor does it receive federal money to help serve the additional students.

The Episcopal Wichita Area Refugee Ministries did not respond to a request for comment.

The group began resettling refugees in Wichita in June 2012. According to a 2011 Wichita Eagle article, the group intended to coordinate the largest refugee resettlement in the city in 30 years. According to its website, in 2012, the group resettled 22 Burmese refugees. It planned to resettle an additional 35 to 40 in 2013, with increases in following years.

Follow Chuck on Twitter