Thank goodness the San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters has deemed legally unqualified a petition that would have prohibited undocumented children from attending school in the Yucaipa - Calimesa Unified School District. That petition’s spirit is contrary to the basic principles that guided our country’s founding, and it disregards the point of publicly funding education -- which is for all of society’s benefit.
The petition would have also required students who are citizens but who have one or more undocumented parents to pay to attend public schools in the district.
We have a strong opposition to the hateful message promoted by this petition, and fear the movement’s supporters have vowed to carry on their campaign. Joseph Turner, the instigator of the petition, recently promoted his anti-immigrant views to a receptive audience of 200 Redlands Tea Party Patriots.
Everyone who believes in the basic right to public education should take a stand against anti-immigrant fear mongering, which doesn’t express the values of our community.
The premise of this movement is that education funding is what supporters call a “zero sum game.” In their minds, money spent educating undocumented children is money taken away from educating full fledged citizens.
They don’t mention the costs of creating an underclass of uneducated, illiterate, outcast members of the community.
Nor do they express concern about the harm inflicted on children excluded from school. Turner’s proposal paints undocumented children primarily as illegal aliens from whom the rest of us must protect ourselves and our wallets. Supporters clearly do not perceive them as children with the same needs and potential as their own.
Federal and California law, the policies of the state Board of Education and local school districts, and the Plyler vs. Doe U.S. Supreme Court decision 35 years ago all prohibit the exclusion of children from public school based on immigration status. The reasons those laws and policies exist, and the reason the overwhelming majority of school teachers and administrators support universal access to public education, have nothing to do with immigration policy or being “the enemy of working-class Californians who seek to play by the rules,” as Turner has alleged. It’s because denying education to any child is abuse, and it hurts society as much as it hurts the child.
Furthermore, uneducated teens and adults are not easily employable, and if they turn to crime, it costs taxpayers more -- not just in money, but in their sense of community peace.
Immigration policy is a contentious subject, and Congress’ decades long failure to address it comprehensively has left us divided and upset across the political spectrum.
But we are above making children suffer for our collective failure, and smarter than to create burdens on society out of spite.
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