Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Michigan Legalizes Discrimination in School Aid Act

Michigan's House and Senate passed the 2013-14 school aid budget containing new language that is not only discriminatory but could force school districts to take on the role of the INS in weeding out students who are not legally residents of the United States.

The act includes a new Section 41 which provides a modest carrot for schools ($1.2 million) to provide literacy instruction to students with evaluated as having limited English proficiency. But the stick mandates that these funds NOT be used for any students, regardless of age or circumstances that brought them here, that are not living legally in this country.

Here's the actual language soon to be signed with the rest of the bill by Governor Rick Snyder, who likes to posture himself as someone interested in reforming schools for higher academic achievement --- that is unless you are as young as a 5 year old who doesn't even know you aren't living here legally.

SEC. 41. (1) FROM THE APPROPRIATION IN SECTION 11, THERE IS
ALLOCATED AN AMOUNT NOT TO EXCEED $1,200,000.00 FOR 2013-2014 TO
APPLICANT DISTRICTS AND INTERMEDIATE DISTRICTS OFFERING PROGRAMS OF  INSTRUCTION FOR PUPILS OF LIMITED ENGLISH-SPEAKING ABILITY UNDER SECTION 1153 OF THE REVISED SCHOOL CODE, MCL 380.1153. SUBJECT TO SUBSECTION (2), REIMBURSEMENT SHALL BE ON A PER-PUPIL BASIS AND SHALL BE BASED ON THE NUMBER OF PUPILS OF LIMITED ENGLISH-SPEAKING ABILITY IN MEMBERSHIP ON THE PUPIL MEMBERSHIP COUNT DAY. FUNDS ALLOCATED UNDER THIS SECTION SHALL BE USED SOLELY FOR INSTRUCTION IN SPEAKING, READING, WRITING, OR COMPREHENSION OF ENGLISH. A PUPIL SHALL NOT BE COUNTED UNDER THIS SECTION OR INSTRUCTED IN A PROGRAM UNDER THIS SECTION FOR MORE THAN 3 YEARS. 
(2) A DISTRICT OR INTERMEDIATE DISTRICT SHALL NOT RECEIVE FUNDS UNDER THIS SECTION IF IT ALLOWS PUPILS TO PARTICIPATE IN THE PROGRAM OF INSTRUCTION WHO ARE NOT RESIDING IN THE UNITED STATES LEGALLY. (emphasis added)

Besides it's discriminatory foundation, this is language no doubt perpetrated by the Tea Party members of the House, many of whom have no interest in helping poor urban schools (where most of the LEP students attend) but see this as just another opportunity to further their personal agendas.

Besides an embarrassment to the entire State of Michigan (is this Pure Michigan?), the provision could force schools to have to single out students whom up to this point have remained "off the radar" as far as K-12 education goes. Once the schools have this type of knowledge, to avoid being penalized and required to pay back funds used in error, it's only a matter of time before the feds come knocking at our door to track them down.

Fortunately, it's highly unlikely this restriction will pass court muster.

Thirty-one years ago the Supreme Court ruled that state and local education agencies are required to provide all children equal access to public education at the elementary and secondary levels. In recognition of this important ruling known as Plyler vs. Doe, the Region IX Equity Assistance Center at WestEd is continuing its efforts to raise awareness and encourage all parents to enroll their children in school.
The education of undocumented students is guaranteed by the Plyler vs. Doe decision and certain procedures must be followed when registering immigrant children in school to avoid violation of their civil rights.