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ORR Federal request for funds - joint letters from board

ORR Federal request for funds - joint letters from board

The following letter was sent by the FCPS Board separately to three Northern
Virginia U.S. congressmen and both Virginia U.S. Senators - March 4, 2015

Congressman Barbara Comstock, member, U.S. House of Representatives
Congressman Gerry E. Connolly, member, U.S. House of Representatives
Congressman Donald Beyer, member, U.S. House of Representatives
Senator Tim Kaine, member, U.S. Senate
Senator Mark Warner, member, U.S. Senate

Dear [name of Congressman or Senator]

We are writing to seek your assistance in identifying and securing funding and other resources to help us address the needs of one of our most recently arrived and most vulnerable student populations -- children who have been relocated to Fairfax County through the federal Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) has both a Constitutional and, more importantly, a moral obligation to welcome and educate every student who resides in our county, without questioning their origin or their immigration status. Because of this, we can only make the assumption that last year's documented 20 percent increase in the number of FCPS students receiving the most intensive level of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) is at least in some ways related to the 1,373 unaccompanied children that were released to sponsors in Fairfax County in federal FY 2014, according to the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement. This increase in ESOL services has required an additional $4 million in funding in our FY 2016 budget.

As you can see, even if only a portion of these relocated children eventually enroll in our schools, it represents a significant inflow of students who are likely to require intensive levels of instructional services and support to help ensure their successful transition and eventual academic success, and who were not otherwise accounted for by the local budget process.

One possible model for resource availability is the existing Impact Aid funding program. While woefully underfunded in its own right, Impact Aid at least attempts to address the needs of local school divisions in supporting their federally-connected students. We've also identified the Refugee School Impact program as another possible alternative resource. This program appears to be administered by the Office of Refugee Resettlement's Division of Refugee Assistance (DRA) and Virginia seems to have received approximately $400K from the program in the past. However the most recent information we can find about these grants is from 2012, and the funding was directed to the state through the Virginia Department of Social Services. It is not clear to us if ot how that funding was allocated to address specific local concerns.

One of the great strengths of Fairfax County Public Schools is its diversity and we will always do everything we can to enable the successful transition and eventual academic success of every one of our students. Our hope is that you will help us ensure the success of our recently relocated students by identifying and securing the additional resources that will be so important in addressing their academic needs.

Thank you for considering our request and we look forward to working with you on this critical issue.

Sincerely,

Tamara Denerek Kaufax, Chair, Lee District Representative
Pat Hynes, Federal Legislative Liaison, Hunter Mill District Representative
cc: School Board; Karen Garza; Michael Molloy