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California Department of Education
Official Letter
California Department of Education
Official Letter
January 29, 2020

Dear County and District Superintendents and Charter School Administrators:

Public Charge Rule Does Not Impact Public Education and Programs Provided by Schools

Following a recent United States Supreme Court decision, the federal government can now enforce the “public charge” rule (found on the Federal Register website at while various lawsuits challenging the rule’s legality proceed.

The public charge rule makes it more difficult to apply for permanent residency or earn a visa if an applicant currently uses or is deemed likely to depend on government aid such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), housing assistance, and Medicaid.

I am very concerned about the detrimental effects that fear and confusion, as well as enforcement of the public charge rule, is likely to have on our students, families, and communities across California, and I want to emphasize the following points:

  • Public education is not a public benefit covered by the rule. Attending school will not impact a child’s or family member’s immigration status. This makes it critical that all of us emphasize the importance of attending school and encourage families to continue sending their children to school—attending school will not impact a child’s or family member’s immigration status.
  • The public charge rule generally does not apply to programs delivered by kindergarten through grade twelve (K–12) schools, such as school nutrition. The National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Seamless Summer Option, Afterschool Meal Supplement, Special Milk Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program, and Summer Food Service Program are not considered public benefits that could impact an individual’s immigration status.

It is important, therefore, to communicate with your parents and school communities to reinforce that programs delivered by K–12 schools, such as school nutrition programs, are not subject to the new rule and to encourage the completion of the meal application and alternate meal forms for free and reduced-priced meals.

The public charge rule does not apply to all immigrants or all government programs, but the rule is confusing and its complicated framework will be difficult to navigate for many families. Immigrants, including United States citizens, may perceive this rule as affecting their families’ ability to stay in this country. Sharing accurate information and qualified immigration resources will be critical to protect against any potential harm.

To assist you with consistent messaging regarding the public charge rule, California has developed a clearinghouse of resources, including information about who is exempt from the rule and where to access qualified immigration advice. These resources are available on the California Immigrant Guide web page at

Additional resources and information that you may use to communicate with families in your district are available on the California Department of Education’s Safe Havens Initiative web page at

Finally, your anecdotal information, stories, and needs are important for us to hear and share with policymakers so we are better able to understand the negative impact of the rule to California school districts and the students you serve. Please contact Kim Frinzell, Director, Nutrition Services Division, by phone at 916-322-1566 or by email at to share your data and experiences regarding the impact of the public charge rule or to receive additional information regarding this topic.

We are in communication with our federal and state leadership and agencies regarding the impact of the rule. The State has also challenged the rule in court. I, along with our Governor, Legislators, and the Attorney General, support the families of all students regardless of immigration status and call upon and stand with all schools in California as we identify strategies to help mitigate the negative consequences the public charge rule will have on the health and academic outcomes of our most vulnerable communities.


Tony Thurmond


Last Reviewed: Wednesday, January 29, 2020

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