Leader Blues

Monday, September 10, 2007

TOP STORY >>Migrant children receive benefits

By HEATHER HARTSELL
Leader staff writer

During harvest season, many children in migrant families move from school to school while their parents search for work. Some may not know it, but that makes them eligible for educational, health and family services provided through Arkansas Migrant Education cooperatives across the state.

Because these services are offered only to families that move seeking agricultural, fishing-related and some forestry jobs,
not a large number

of students in area schools use the program, Beth McCarty, director of the Northeast Arkansas Migrant Education Cooperative, said.

Cabot schools have four migrant students this year. Beebe had about 20 last year and Lonoke had four.

Not many Pulaski County Special School District students use the services because, according to McCarty, the parents are in construction, yard maintenance or restaurant work and those types of jobs do not qualify.

Sue Spainhouer, director of the Southeast Migrant Cooperative, which covers the Lonoke area, said Wednesday the cooperative is trying to find out how many migrant students are in Lonoke.

All Arkansas students, age 3-22, who have moved with their families across school-district lines in the last three years to obtain temporary or seasonal employment in agricultural or fishing work are eligible for migrant-education program services.
The number of students using the services varies, because unless they move again, a student is eligible only for three years, McCarty said.

Once identified as migrant students, they are eligible for free school meals, limited medical and vision services and extended learning opportunities, among others.

Health services include vision/hearing screenings, wellness checkups, blood pressure, dental ($100 limit), eyeglasses ($144 limit), doctor’s visits ($60 limit) and prescriptions ($40 limit).

“A lot of times students who come across the border have never seen a doctor,” Spainhouer said. “They may have broken their arm years ago and it never got set. It (medical services) is a need we see with a lot of our students,” she said.

Extended learning opportunities include a PASS course, free independent study courses designed specifically for mobile migrant students in grades 9-12 to allow the student to stay on track for graduation, and Moving Up Arkansas, a three-week residential school at the Lyon College campus that allows qualified high school migrant students the opportunity to work on credit accrual, leading toward graduation.

There is also a college-assistance migrant program (CAMP) that provides grant money for first-year college expenses, along with an academic-tutoring program.

“Kids in every area of the state are helped with the secondary programs,” McCarty said.