DeKalb County, GA has special school for immigrant children

We’ve heard many times at RRW about the problems faced by school districts with large refugee populations where American parents complain that their children are held back in the classroom by large numbers of students who speak little or no English. (Here is one such story from Vermont just last month.)  But not every community can afford an International Student Center where all the foreign immigrant students attend a school just to get them up to speed to enter a traditional classroom.

For all those communities with growing refugee and immigrant populations, you might start to think about budgeting for this type of separate system or request that the State Department and resettlement contractors slow the flow to your town.

In DeKalb County they are cutting the school budget except not for the International Student Center.  Hat tip: Ralph

From AJC News:

Earlier this month, the school board approved a tentative budget with $115 million in cuts, including 430 layoffs, staff furloughs and program cuts.

But the International Student Center is not among those cuts, district spokesman Dale Davis said.

Board members and administrators say it’s too valuable to the students and to the county, which is one of the nation’s most diverse school districts.

Board member Eugene Walker, who represents the district the Center is in, said that the county could never consider cutting the program.

“It helps the youngster get ready for the traditional classroom,” he said. “DeKalb is an international county and we need tools to prepare them for success in the system and the world. It’s an essential.”

11,000 students in the district speak no English!

“We have no teachers who speak Burundi, but that doesn’t mean we can’t teach them. We have picture dictionaries, visuals and videos,” said Sandra Nunez, director of DeKalb’s English Language Learners Program, which oversees 11,000 students who speak a language other than English. That’s more than 11 percent of the district’s enrollment.

About 2,200 of those students have been declared refugees by the federal government, according to Davis. DeKalb educates 85 percent of the refugees who come to Georgia, officials said.

While all school systems work with foreign language students, DeKalb’s International Student Center takes children who not only don’t speak English, but those who have no formal education.


The Center, which houses children from ages 7 to 20, has students from 168 different countries speaking 142 different languages and dialects. The greatest numbers are from Mexico, followed by Burma, Nepal, India and Iraq.


The students at the Center are still required to pass the CRCTS *– in English – in the same grades as the American students.

Go to DeKalb County, Georgia for schools, public transportation and affordable housing.  But, does it have jobs?

In 2008, 2,325 refugees settled in Georgia, according to the federal Office of Refugee and Resettlement. Sixty-six percent of those refuges came from Bhutan, Burma and Iraq.

Many of them chose DeKalb, which offers the International Student Center, affordable housing and public transportation, Mixon said. “It definitely is the most diverse school system in the Southeast.”

Readers should know that unless refugees are joining family members they don’t get to choose where they will be resettled in the US.  That decision is made in some mysterious method by the federal resettlement contractors who divide up the so-called free-cases among themselves.  The federal government gets involved in the decision only (it seems!) when the media starts picking up on complaints from refugees and citizens of a community about a refugee overload.  I’ve called it the squawk factor—if citizens squawk too loudly (or refugees squawk) over some egregious situation that arises and it starts making the news, the State Department will step in and close down the resettlement for awhile.  It is really very poor managment on their part.

*In other news: While reading the above article I saw a side-bar story about possible high levels of cheating in Atlanta area schools on statewide CRCTS tests, here.