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EDITORIAL: Immigration fix must fund burdened schools

Today Hillary Clinton makes her first campaign stop in Las Vegas as an announced presidential candidate, and she couldn’t have scripted a clearer acknowledgment that illegal immigration has had a profound effect on public education.

This afternoon, according to her campaign, Mrs. Clinton will go to Rancho High School to “join a round table of young Nevadans who are personally affected by our broken immigration system.” The former first lady, senator and secretary of state will suggest how to reform immigration law “to strengthen family and community.”

As Mrs. Clinton well knows, education is a critical part of community that requires deep family commitment. But in Nevada and other Western states, illegal immigration has burdened school districts with enormous costs and devastating failures. We’ll never know how many undocumented students (or how many citizen children of undocumented parents) are enrolled in school systems because states don’t track immigration status, but we do know that more than one in five Clark County students is classified as an English Language Learner, that about 90 percent of the county’s ELL students are Spanish speakers, and that ELL students have a graduation rate of about 20 percent.

That’s why Gov. Brian Sandoval and the Nevada Legislature have made huge investments in ELL and are preparing to raise taxes to expand those initiatives. But whatever they come up with, it won’t be enough. Western states do not have enough resources to offset the fiscal and social costs of federal immigration failures.

And so, if Mrs. Clinton today proposes policies to ensure undocumented immigrants and their families can remain in the United States, she also should propose policies that help these families gain the education they need to lead productive lives. As we wrote in November when President Barack Obama discussed his own immigration orders at Las Vegas’ Del Sol High School, any reform plan should include a massive infusion of federal funding for schools adversely affected by illegal immigration, including the creation of federally funded English academies.

If taxpayers in every state had to equally share the fiscal costs of illegal immigration, divided federal lawmakers would find more immigration policies they could agree on.

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