According to an August 2019 report by The Conversation, housing policies for migrant farmworkers in California have had the unintended consequence of forcing school-age children to miss school for three to six months of the year, depriving them of educational opportunities that might otherwise improve their life chances. As The Conversation reported, new school partnerships and changes in state provisions aim to address these problems.
Under the Office of Migrant Services, the state of California operates 24 Migrant Family Housing Centers for families who migrate for seasonal harvest work. These apartments are highly desired by the families as rents are subsidized and living conditions are much better than in most other available housing options. However, one major requirement to maintain residence is that the migrant family must move at least fifty miles away for three to six months each year.
Because of the high cost of living in California, many families with school-age children return to their hometowns in Mexico during these times. Of course, during the time away, students cannot attend their schools in California and their education suffers as a result. “Moving makes things complicated,” Luis Miguel, a high school student in a migrant family, told The Conversation. “We lose a lot of time, and it’s hard to concentrate.”
According to a 2016 survey, more than half of the families residing in centers across the state–1,037 families to be exact–have school-aged children who are impacted by these policies.
In an effort to help students such as Luis Miguel be successful, California created an online program called Cyber High. However, problems with Internet connections have made this online education program unsuccessful. Online programs also fail to fill the gap left by the disruption of extracurricular programs.
In 2018, Governor Jerry Brown signed a provision in the state budget that would allow students to stay in the same district with one parent, while the other parent moved away in order to fulfill the housing center requirements. In Luis Miguel’s case, this meant he no longer had to move and he became more successful in school. He graduated and continued his education at Modesto Community College while living at a housing center during the harvest season and living with an extended family member in the off-season.
School districts partnering with housing authorities in conjunction with the 2018 provision allow many more successes for migrant families and their children.
Source: Ebrahimi Bazaz, “Missing School Is a Given for Children of Migrant Farmworkers,” The Conversation, August 19, 2019, https://theconversation.com/missing-school-is-a-given-for-children-of-migrant-farmworkers-100793.
Student Researchers: Silvia Morales, Ashley Thomas, Tiziana Ruotolo, Iman Flores, MariaHelena Borges (Sonoma State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman (Sonoma State University)