This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Public schools are required to provide speedy enrollment to immigrant and foster children, according to a new state regulation, the result of a prolonged campaign by the Education Law Center (ELC).
The rules, which took effect in October 2004, explicitly grant equal enrollment rights to children living in foster homes and prohibit schools from inquiring about a child’s immigration status during the admission process.
"Children separated from their parents are especially needy and transient, and these enrollment delays can have a lasting effect on their education," explains Janet Stotland, co-director of the ELC. The organization’s 2002 report revealed that foster children often faced barriers to enrollment and lacked adequate educational opportunities.
The right of all children to enroll in public school was affirmed by the United States Supreme Court over two decades ago. Nonetheless, some immigrant parents reported difficulties enrolling their children, according to the Education Law Center.
Len Rieser, co-executive director of the ELC, expressed confidence that the new regulation erases any ambiguities. "Pennsylvania is making it clear to all its schools that they are not in the immigration enforcement business – they’re in the business of educating children," he said.
Public schools must now enroll a student within five business days of the parent’s or guardian’s application. Immigration status cannot be considered, and foster children living in the district cannot be denied admission.
For information, contact the Education Law Center at 215-238-6970.