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Migrant Education Program: What To Know and How To Help

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Special thanks to the DPI's Migrant Education Program Coordinator and Outreach Recruitment Liaison for their important work, and for help with this article. 

Migration has always existed. While many of us do not think about ourselves as migrants, our ancestors likely moved by force or by choice, seeking better lives and escaping harsh realities in other places.

Who Are Migratory Students?
A migratory student is someone aged 3-21 who moves because they or their family are involved in seasonal, temporary agricultural work. Migratory students often move multiple times per year, experiencing interrupted schooling, changing graduation requirements, social isolation, language barriers, poor living conditions, and limited or no access to medical and dental services.

The DPI does not ask about immigration status or ask for any documentation that would expose status when we qualify students for the Migrant Education Program.

The shared mission of the Title I, Part C Migrant Education Program, and provisions of Title I, Part A of the Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA) is to provide migratory students the supplemental instructional services and support they need to succeed as a responsible citizen with access to higher education learning opportunities and productive employment.

How Can You Help?

As Migration Changes, So Too Do The Challenges Our Students Face
Patterns of migration change over time for many reasons, and it is incumbent upon us to give students access to the support they need to thrive as learners and community members.

The majority of the migrant students we serve have families that move between Texas and Wisconsin, depending on the growing season. In order to help create some educational continuity, we are able to, in some cases, administer the STAAR test, which is required by the state of Texas for students to qualify to move to the next grade level.

Trends in migration which are affecting our students include:

  • Climate change. The past few summers have been extremely difficult for growing, with little snow this past winter exacerbating conditions. Due to the mild winter and drought conditions, families are moving to Wisconsin earlier in the spring, and leaving earlier in the fall.
  • Lapsing eligibility. Many students are staying in one place for a longer period of time which removes eligibility for students to participate in MEP (Those in the meatpacking and the dairy industry are more likely to stay put in one place. The students whose families are involved in these industries may need continued services, while the eligibility period for the MEP program runs out after they’ve been in the same place for three years.)
  • Aging out. We have a growing number of H2A workers over the age of 22 who come to Wisconsin without families and do not qualify for the MEP program because they have aged out, but also have similar challenges to the students we serve.
  • Economic and market factors. Farms are closing and being sold at a significant rate. From 2017-2022, 30% of dairy farms in the state were lost to consolidation. With milk prices dropping over the past few years, smaller family farms have been squeezed out of business. We must constantly make new connections with farmers to be able to better serve migrant families.

To refer a family to the summer MEP, please contact DPI staff or refer to the Regional Coordinator contacts on the DPI's web site. Please see the Identifying Migratory Students: Confirming Migrant Status and Making Referrals page for more information about who is eligible and making referrals.