Migrant Educations Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the migrant education program (MEP)?

The migrant education program (MEP) is a federally funded program that assists selected school districts in providing supplementary services to migratory children and youth.  Through local public schools, the program helps children develop oral and written language and other communication skills.  It focuses on reading and mathematics, along with other core subjects to improve student achievement and provides support for high school credit accrual opportunities. Back to top

What is the purpose of the migrant education program?

The general purpose of the MEP is to ensure that migrant children fully benefit from the same free public education provided to other children. To achieve this purpose, the MEP helps local school districts address the special educational needs of migrant children to better enable them to succeed academically. More specifically, the purposes of the MEP are to:
  • Support high-quality and comprehensive educational programs for migrant children in order to reduce the educational disruption and other problems that result from repeated moves;
  • Ensure that migrant children who move frequently are not penalized in any manner by disparities in curriculum, graduation requirements, academic content, and student academic achievement standards;
  • Ensure that migrant children are provided with appropriate educational services (including supportive services) that address their unique needs in a coordinated and efficient manner;
  • Ensure that migrant children receive full and appropriate opportunities to meet the same challenging State academic content and student academic achievement standards that all children are expected to meet;
  • Design programs to help migrant children overcome educational disruption, cultural and language barriers, social isolation, various health-related problems, and other factors that inhibit their ability to do well in school, and to prepare them to make a successful transition to postsecondary education or employment; and
  • Ensure that migrant children benefit from State and local systemic reforms. Back to Top

Who is an eligible migrant child? 

A child is eligible to be migrant if:
  • The child is younger than 22 and has not graduated from high school or does not hold a high school equivalency certificate; and
  • The child is a migrant agricultural worker or a migrant fisher or has a parent, spouse, or guardian who is a migrant agricultural worker or a migrant fisher; and
  • The child has moved, either alone, or with a parent, guardian, or spouse, within the preceding 36 months, in order to obtain (or seek) qualifying agricultural or fishing work; and
  • Such employment is a principal means of livelihood; and
  • The child has moved from one school district to another. Back to top

When does eligibility of a child begin and end? 

A child’s eligibility for the MEP begins when the child completes a qualifying move.  It ends after 36 months, graduation from high school, or completion of a GED/HSED. Back to top

Can anyone qualify to be counted as migrant regardless of race?

Yes.  As long as the child or young adult meets the criteria for eligibility to be considered migrant, s/he qualifies. Race is never a qualifying factor. (See question 3 for the definition of a migrant child.) Back to top

What is the difference between migrant and immigrant?

A migrant is a person that moves from one region to another, or an itinerant worker who travels from one area to another in search of agricultural work. The person who moves is also referred to as migratory. The root of the term comes from the verb “to migrate,” which has to do with movement from one region to another. The term immigrant refers to a person who leaves one country to settle in another.  So, for example, people who come to the U.S. from other countries and settle here are immigrants.  The term migrant, in the case of the migrant education program, refers to a move for the purpose of obtaining work directly related to agriculture or fishing.  Neither term infers anything related to legal status.Back to Top

What is a "qualifying move”?

 A move qualifies if:
  • it is a move across school district boundaries; and
  • it involves a change of residence; and
  • the purpose of the worker’s move is to obtain qualifying work in agriculture or fishing; and
  • the purpose of the worker’s move was not to relocate on a permanent basis; and
  • it occurred within the preceding 36 months. Back to top

Is there a minimum distance requirement for a qualifying move?

No. The only requirements are that the move is across school district boundaries to establish a new residence, and that it enables the worker to seek or obtain qualifying work.Back to top

May a state base a child’s eligibility on a qualifying move that occurred in another State within the past 36 months?

Yes. The recruiter must record the date on which the qualifying move occurred and other information that establishes the child’s eligibility for the MEP.  The child is eligible for the MEP for the remainder of the 36-month period.Back to Top

What kind of agricultural work qualifies a family/child as migrant?

An “agricultural activity” is:
  • any activity directly related to the production or processing of crops, dairy products, poultry, or livestock for initial commercial sale or as a principal means of personal subsistence;
  • any activity directly related to the cultivation or harvesting of trees; or
  • any activity directly related to fish farms. Back to Top

What does the migrant education program offer to families and children?

The migrant education program offers education and support services for migrant children through selected local schools and education agencies during the summer and during the regular school year.  

Some of the services include: Integrated classroom instruction, secondary school services such as TAKS testing, PASS courses for students in grades 9-12 and Mini-PASS courses for students in grades 6-8, distance learning opportunities, and correspondence coursework.
  • In addition, the state migrant education program provides supportive services and technical assistance to schools and agencies operating a migrant education program, including assistance in pupil record transfers and school information exchanges.
  • The program also provides referral services to agencies that may be able to assist children and families with non-education related matters.
  • The program also offers opportunities for parents to participate in the planning and evaluation of the program. Back to top

Do migrant children have to attend school while in Wisconsin?

Yes. Migrant children are not different from any other children when it pertains to attending public schools.

  • Wisconsin compulsory school attendance law says that children between the ages of 6 and 18 years must attend school regularly while they are in Wisconsin, even if the duration is very short. 
  • The Wisconsin Constitution guarantees a free education for children ages 4 through 20, 21 if a student with disabilities, who have not graduated from high school.
  • Local school districts are required to enforce school attendance laws in coordination with other schools and social service agencies within their counties during the school year.
  • Modified programs for students between 16 and 18 years of age are possible only through written agreements between school personnel and parents. Back to top

Is the migrant program the same as the English Language Learner/English as a Second Language (ELL/ESL) program?

No.  The migrant education program is a Title I program, and as such, it will always be a supplemental program to all other district programs.  The ELL/ESL program in a district is primarily locally funded, although state and other federal funds under Title III are also used to meet the needs of English language learners.  The MEP frequently compliments other district programs designed for ELL/ESL students, although it will never be the primary provider of those services. Back to top

What other agencies does the migrant education program work with to provide services to migrant children and their families?

Some of the cooperating agencies include the following:
  • United Migrant Opportunity Services (UMOS)
  • Legal Action of Wisconsin
  • Madison and Milwaukee Area Technical Colleges High School Equivalency Programs (HEP)
  • Wisconsin Bureau of Refugee, Migrant, and Labor Services
  • Wisconsin Bureau of Job Service
  • Family Health, La Clínica.Clínica.
  • Selected local and regional education agencies. Back to top

Why is it important to identify and certify children as migrant?

Migrant funds are generated each year on the basis of numbers of children identified throughout the state. Therefore it is essential that identification and recruitment take place on an ongoing and timely basis. States that receive Title I funds are charged with the responsibility of identifying migrant children, between birth through 21 years of age, regardless of where the children live in the state. Formal processes have been established by the Office of Migrant Education (OME) that include a face-to-face interview with the family to determine eligibility.  The Department of Public Instruction initiates processes for working with districts in order to identify migrant students on a statewide basis. Back to Top

How can school districts start a migrant education program?

Local school districts may submit funding applications per WI Department of Public Instruction (DPI) guidelines, based on number of migratory children and needs. Districts with large numbers of migrant students are invited to participate in the program, unless other sufficient sources of support are present. For more information, interested district personnel should contact the Wisconsin Migrant Education Program at (608) 266-7283.  Back to Top
For questions about this information, contact Alfonso Zepeda-Capistran (608) 267-2287, Kyle Peaden (608) 266-5404