Among the neediest students in California are migratory youth, who change schools throughout the year, often crossing school district and state lines, to follow work in agriculture, fishing, dairies, or the logging industry. Since 1966, federal and state laws in California have recognized the unique educational challenges migrant students face and have provided support for educational programs and services that are designed to help students and their families overcome the obstacles they face because of poverty and disrupted educational experiences. The following information outlines the legal basis for migrant education, the educational programs provided for migratory students, and the resources available to educators.
Basis for the Migrant Education Program
California's Migrant Education Program (MEP) is supported by federal and state laws. The state law is a response to federal requirements for educating migratory students. Although it does not provide funding for the program, the state law sets out the administrative framework for delivering MEP services. At the federal level, MEP is authorized by Part C of Title I of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), a federal initiative signed into law in to strengthen the education of low-achieving children. The MEP requirements focus on meeting the needs of the students that emerge as a result of their mobility.
The Congress states that the following policy of the United States is the basis for the provisions of NCLB:
...a high quality education for all individuals and a fair and equal opportunity to obtain that education are a societal good, are a moral imperative, and improve the life of every individual, because the quality of our individual lives ultimately depends on the quality of the lives of others.
According to NCLB, the purpose of migrant education is to:
Ensure the migratory students have the opportunity to meet the same challenging state content and performance standards that all children are expected to meet;
- Support high-quality and comprehensive educational programs for migratory children to help reduce the educational disruptions and other problems that result from repeated moves;
- Ensure that migrant children are provided with appropriate educational services (including supportive services) that address their special needs in a coordinated and efficient manner; and
- Design programs to help migratory children overcome educational disruption, cultural and language barriers, social isolation, various health-related problems, and other factors that inhibit the ability of the children to do well in school. The programs should help prepare the children to make a successful transition to post-secondary education or employment.
Migratory students are eligible for funding if they have moved during the last 36 months because they or members of their family were trying to obtain temporary or seasonal employment in agricultural, dairy, fishing, or logging activities. The law states that migrant education, services are a priority for those students, ages three through twenty-one, whose education has been interrupted during the current school year and who are failing, or are most at risk of failing, to meet state content and performance standards.