Everything an immigrant parent should know when enrolling a child in a US school

Everything an immigrant parent should know when enrolling a child in a US school

The US ranks 28th in the global education standings, an impressive feat since there are over a hundred countries in the world. This also explains why a lot of parents with American visas want to give their children a part of this exceptional education. 

As a parent, you already know what to tell your kid if he’s going to school in an unfamiliar world. You’d surely tell him to make friends, respect his teachers, study hard, and try to enjoy everything. 
But the schooling system in the US is pretty different from the rest of the world. Large or small, you still have to consider taking a quick look at how the US education system works. 
Below is a brief summary of everything you need to know about schools, costs, rights and enrollment, which we hope will help you prepare for the next stage.  

Education system in the US
The United States uses the K-12 system, in which the state requires all its citizens to obtain a public education from the ages of five to 18. 
Compulsory education begins with elementary school, which covers kindergarten through 5th grade (five to 11 years old). Secondary school (middle school and junior high school) includes 6th to 8th grade (11 to 14 years old), and high school, which covers 9th to 12th grade (14 to 18 years old). 
After which, students who have completed the compulsory education may choose to attend a university or college that offer undergraduate and baccalaureate degrees.

Academic year and school terms
The school calendar typically starts in autumn (last week of August or first week of September) and continues through spring (last week of May or first week of June). 
Most public and private schools begin their classes on Tuesday following the first Monday in September or the day after Labor Day.

In most schools, the academic year is split into two terms or two 18-week semesters. Some US schools adhere to the trimester scheme, while some split their academic year into four terms. 
Holidays and breaks may also vary depending on the state, but the variations are only slight. For the full list of school days for 2017, please follow this link.

Cost of education
Public education, of course, is funded by the government, but you still have to pay for school supplies and other extra-curricular activities like field trips and special programs. Extra charges could cost you up to $10-$5000 per academic year.

Private school education is a bit more expensive. Generally, it starts at $2,000 annually and could go as high as $50,000. It will actually depend on the school’s curriculum (focus and teaching style), the number of employees and ratio of teachers to pupils, the size of classrooms and facilities, or whether it’s religious or non-sectarian. 
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average private school tuition for elementary students is $6,733, $4,944 at Catholic schools, $6,576 at religious institutions, and $15,945 at most nonsectarian schools.   

Also, you still have to consider other expenses such as meals, transportation, and boarding school. Most private schools, however, offer discounts for siblings and outstanding students.

Education for migrants
The United States is one of the most welcoming countries in the world for immigrant children. In a recent data compiled by the US Department of Education (DOE), there are currently over 800,000 immigrant students in the country. 

According to its law, all children in the country are qualified to obtain equal access to a public elementary and secondary education, regardless of their or their parents' actual or perceived national origin, citizenship, or immigration status. In short, it is the federal state’s responsibility to educate children who arrive and stay in the US.

Having said this, all immigrant children are protected by the federal law, giving parents the full right to send them to any school of their choosing. There is also the Migrant Education Program (MEP) which the federal government designed solely to help migrant children obtain the quality education they deserve.   

What you need to prepare before your kid starts school
To assist you with the key school things to remember, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has prepared a checklist for you here
For the school supplies and learning materials you need to buy, these will all be enumerated by the school during the first parent-teacher meeting, but for public schools, you don’t need to worry about anything since the state will provide it for you.

Talk to one of our migration lawyers for more clarifications and updates on US immigration laws. You can also take our free online assessment to see if you are eligible to apply for a visa to the U.S.

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