A top official at the state Education Department said the agency is working to allow new students into Nyssa’s migrant education program but can’t say when that can happen.
The Nyssa School District is under investigation for mishandling the education program intended to serve students of migrant laborers. State officials found that about one-third of those enrolled in the last school year weren’t eligible.
As a result, the Nyssa district was ordered to suspend recruiting new students. The district gets extra compensation for the program.
The state education agency is working with the state Justice Department and the U.S. Department of Education to consider action against the Nyssa district.
“We have urgency around making sure we are taking action,” said Jennifer Patterson, a state assistant superintendent. “We also have a responsibility to work hand-in-hand with the Department of Justice and the Department of Education. They share in our urgency.”
A recent report showed investigators tracked back on more than 500 students in the program. The Nyssa district manages that program for the Adrian and Vale districts.
Investigators said they couldn’t find information on 170 families.
“Reaching them can be a challenge,” Patterson said in an interview with the Enterprise. “They work long days or they are no longer working. Reaching families takes a lot of time and commitment.”
But about one-third of the 342 enrollees reviewed weren’t eligible for migrant education benefits such as extra school help and assistance for their families.
Patterson said the state agency recognizes that there are students who are missing out on those benefits because enrollment is suspended.
“Without question, our primary commitment is to the students of Nyssa that qualify for migrant education services. “The students remain at the center of our call to action.”
Patterson said steps to get the program operating fully again are being considered but she couldn’t discuss them.
She also couldn’t discuss the status of a financial audit of Nyssa that state officials warned earlier this year was likely.
The state agency hasn’t escaped criticism for its management of migrant education in Oregon. Patterson said agency officials are considering the findings by reviewers that more state oversight is needed.
“We are always committed to getting better in our work,” she said.
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