The Children of the Road...
Who are migratory students?
What is the
"Children of the Road" they are called-- the sons and daughters of the migratory agricultural and fishing workers who help to produce the food we eat every day. The parents of these children work a wide variety of jobs: harvesting crops, preparing the soil, catching fish, cutting timber, feeding livestock, milking cows, plucking chickens…. The list goes on. But whether their parents cut stalks of asparagus, pick tomatoes, or process beef and poultry, all of these mobile children face the same barriers to education. Moving from school to school, from state to state, their schooling suffers repeated interruptions, immersion in unfamiliar surroundings, and constantly changing curricula.
The challenge of providing these children with the opportunity to succeed in school and attain the high standards expected of all students is addressed by a Federal program which offers each state funds to establish supplementary programs to help these children overcome the obstacles inherent in their mobile lives.
Migrant Education Program?
The Federal government began a broad-scale effort to improve the lot of America's migrant and seasonal farm workers in the Sixties. The nation's collective conscience had been jolted by Edward R. Murrow's documentary Harvest of Shame, which was telecast on CBS television in 1960. Awareness of the poverty and hardships endured by families that migrated to harvest fruits and vegetables to feed hungry Americans led to a call for action at the highest level. The first major government program addressed health concerns, and other programs were created to focus on housing, working conditions, and training for other employment. Then came education.
The passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in 1965 committed the Federal government to help schools, especially in providing extra help to children who were disadvantaged by poverty and its effects. In the Fall of 1966, Congress amended the ESEA to create the Migrant Education Program to address the special needs of mobile farm worker children.
The first programs for migrant children were implemented in the Fall of 1967 with a total Federal allocation of $9 million.
Today the Migrant Education Program serves more than half a million children in 49 states. The Federal commitment is $386.5 million for the 2007 federal fiscal year which begins October 1, 2006 and ends September 30, 2007. With those funds, states and local schools provide a broad range of instructional and support services to supplement regular classroom instruction and help overcome barriers arising from mobility and educational disruption. Most states offer special programs in the summer. Many states make special efforts to reach preschool children and older out-of-school youth who have not graduated.
The Migrant Program faces unique challenges in locating and enrolling children who move, in exchanging academic and health information, and in facilitating the transfer of high school credits. Many innovative approaches have been developed, including pioneer applications of technology. From an internal database begun in 1971 to nationwide distance learning programs in the early Nineties, the program now offers online courses, mobile computer labs, and satellite feeds. Some students are provided with laptop computers to stay in touch with their home schools as they move.