El Paso Schools pays $145,000 to transfer federally mandated migrant education program to local education services center, paid Panorama Education $325,000 for ‘social-emotional learning’ services


El Paso Independent School District paid Educational Services Center Region 19, a “community partner” serving local schools, $145,017 in Title I funds to take over its Migrant Education Program for the end of the 2022-2023 school year, according to emails obtained by Parents Defending Education.

El Paso Independent School District Board of Trustees approved an “Interlocal Agreement” between Region 19 and the district for the remainder of the 2022-2023 school year, which cost the district $145,017.00 in Title I, Part C funds, meeting minutes from the April 18, 2023 show. The board also approved a Shared Services Agreement between the district and Region 19 for the 2023-2024 Migrant Education Program. The meeting minutes did not list a cost for the second agreement.

Documents in a February 2023 email outlined the proposal to transfer El Paso’s Migrant Education Program to Region 19. The Migrant Education Program provided in conjunction between the district and education service center “will consist of fully supporting the districts programs and students and families receiving migrant services.” Another document that appears to be attached to the same email includes a “Required School District/ESC [Education Service Center] Activities Chart.” Required activities affecting migrant students include “enrollments, residency verification, immunizations and medical alerts,” in addition to education-related activities such as recommending courses for school semester.

The district’s “Priority for Service (PFS) Action Plan for Migrant Students 2022-2023,” which appears to be attached to the same February 2023 email, says that prioritizing services for migrant students is a requirement of the Every Student Succeeds Act. Indeed, Title I Part C, the Migrant Education Program, Title III Part A of the Every Student Succeeds Act, as well as Texas state code, require districts to provide services for migrant students, create bilingual learning programs for students, and track the results of those programs. Districts receive federal funding to fulfill those mandates.

Veronica Reyes, the Executive Director of Specialized Learning, said to former Chief Academic Officer Jacqueline Kennedy in a February 2023 letter regarding the Migrant Education Program transition:

“EPISD serves a total of 236 migrant students, the largest district serving the migrant population in the region. The Migrant Department is currently staffed by the four staff members: one coordinator and three recruiters.” The letter continues and claims the district “lacks an effective system to identify and recruit migrant children,” and some instructional services for migrant students had been shut off in October 2022 due to a lack of funding

2022-2023 Texas Performance Reporting System and Texas Academic Performance Reports data included in a December 2023 email reported that the district served 177 migrant and 408 immigrant students that school year, representing 0.4 and 0.8 percent of the student population, respectively. A 2023-2024 fall data review found that, compared to the prior school year, the number of immigrant students increased by 3 percent, the number of migrant students decreased by 20 percent, and there were 454 additional emergent bilingual students in El Paso schools.

El Paso ISD’s District Improvement Plan, developed during the 2022-2023 school year, listed “Whole Child Development” as its top goal. Objective 14 of that goal is “Implement a comprehensive Migrant Student support program to ensure migratory students receive the same learning opportunities, services, and resources. First priority will be given to students identified monthly by EA as being in need of Priority for Services (PFS). – Connecting Languages/Migrant.”

This includes coordinating “to provide needs-based supplemental instruction and support to migratory students,” such as giving families of migrants ages three to give “School Readiness resources” and “provide non-instructional support services to migratory students and families.”

Also tucked into line-item expenses for the month of July 2023 were payments to Panorama Education. The district paid $325,000 total for a license fee for social-emotional “Student Growth Measure,” “Student Success Platform,” “Project Management,” and “Professional Development Foundations Package in-person workshop.”

While the district serves a high percentage of Latino students, emails reveal that a legal immigration service planned to bring 125 migrants from Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Central and South America, South Sudan, and Myanmar to El Paso between 2024 and 2025. The email did not specify whether any of the incoming migrants were children.

School districts across the United States face a steep falloff of covid-era emergency relief funds later this year as they serve increasing numbers of migrant students and families. Denver Public Schools, for example, faces a $17 million budget shortfall as it tries to accommodate hundreds of additional migrant students each week during the middle of the school year, according to a January 28, 2024 Denver Post article. The district is teaching 2,800 additional migrant children since the start of the school year.