Gov. Polis signs bill giving $24M to schools for new migrant students


(The Center Square) – Colorado schools will receive $24 million in state money for one-time allocations to pay for the influx of new migrant students.

House Bill 24-1389, signed into law by Democratic Gov. Jared Polis on Thursday, will distribute state funds to school districts for “new arrival students” entering after the 2023-24 “pupil enrollment day.”

The bill defines “new arrival students” as a student who “moved from another country to Colorado, directly or indirectly; who has been in the United States for less than one year; who is not proficient in English or has limited English proficiency; and whose enrollment in a Colorado public school is the student’s first school enrollment in the United States.”

The bill passed 49-15 in the House and 18-7 in the Senate.

“This bipartisan law helps ensure school districts receive the funding they need to educate students where they are currently attending school,” Polis said in a statement. “I applaud the Joint Budget Committee for their work on this legislation and am happy to sign it into law to help more schools and educators get the resources they need.”

The bill stated the money was critical due to the current migrant situation.

“This sudden influx has strained existing school infrastructure and staffing, led to overcrowded classrooms, stretched resources, and increased complexity to the student learning environment,” the bill stated. “Schools are scrambling to accommodate the influx.”

In February, Denver’s public school system reported approximately 250 new students a week and estimated a cost of $837,000 was needed to provide support throughout its system. The district reported 3,221 new-to-country students from July 1, 2023 until January. More than 1,300 of those students enrolled after Oct. 1, 2023.

“New arrival students face unique challenges, including language barriers, cultural adjustments, and various academic backgrounds,” the bill stated. “These unique challenges require specialized resources and support services.”

Late last month, Denver schools reported 3,767 new arrival students, a 93% increase from last year. In the same report, the district projected it would receive between $2 million and $5 million of the $24 million total from the state.

The bill states each school district requesting funding will receive an amount based on new arrivals, ranging from $15,000 for one to five new arrivals to $750,000 for 500 or more. Plus, each school district or charter school requesting the money will receive $4,500 for each student in the net population or the total new arrival student population, whichever is lesser. If the funding runs out, the Department of Education is required to proportionally reduce the $4,500 per student.

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