We are a nation of immigrants, of children of immigrants; grandchildren of immigrants, our roots are in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America.
A friend who loves to walk was visiting New York. As she walked across Brooklyn the neighborhoods change from Pakistani to Orthodox, to West Indian to Chinese to Russian, she could not believe that so many ethnic communities sat side by side.
“Do they get along?” she queried.
I smiled, “For the parents, benign neglect, for the kids, they sit next to each other in classrooms, for the rest of us, lots of ethnic restaurant choices.”
The strength of our nation, the future of our nation rests on the infusion of the collected knowledge of generation after generation of graduates with new ideas. As the 2013 CUNY graduates walk across the stage we note name after name from the far corners of the world. The winners of awards, the valedictorians, the salutatorians reflect the diversity of the city. We don’t know whether they are documented or undocumented, we know they are “the best and the brightest.”
To even the funding playing field at the federal and state level legislation provides grants and loans to students, except to students who are not documented.
New York State, for many years, has supported students in college through the Tuition Assistance Program, referred to as TAP, as long as the student is a citizen. For the one hundred thousand students in the state who are undocumented, TAP grants are not available.
On Monday the New York State Board of Regents convened a number of panels at their monthly meeting to discuss the inequity in the TAP law. Four panelists, all of whom came to the nation as young children, told their stories and the obstacles to achieve their dream, the American dream, a college diploma and a path to citizenship.
Under the proposed law,
To qualify for TAP under New York’s proposed Dream Act, undocumented students would have to either have graduated from a New York high school, which they attended for at least two years, or received a New York State GED. Applicants would have to apply to a post-secondary institution within five years of receiving their high school diploma or GED.
The New York State Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC), a state agency, clearly sets forth the requirement for TAP applicants. The opening sections:
• A United States citizen or eligible non-citizen (i. e., Green Card or equivalent)
• Be a legal resident of New York State
In order to remedy the flaw bills were introduced into the legislature, the Moya-Peralta bill.(read the bill here), On Tuesday, May 21st the Assembly passed the bill, the first step, hopefully, to create a law. “This legislation,” says the Assembly presser, “… would make New York one of only four states – including Texas, New Mexico and California – to offer state financial aid to immigrant students.”
All the Republican members of the Assembly voted against the bill.
On the Senate side the future of the bill is unclear. The Senate leadership is divided, the Independent Democratic Conference, led by Jeff Klein and the Republican leader, Dean Skelos, have expressed weak support but question the source of the funding.
Governor Cuomo has been totally silent, and, the interim report of the Cuomo Commission on Educational Reform made no recommendations. The clock is ticking – the legislature will adjourn around June 20th.
The Regents deserve accolades: the panels that they hosted both explained the details of the DACA (Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals declaration issued by President Obama, the plight of undocumented students and highlighted the successes in one sector of schools – the International High School Network and the Newcomer High Schools.
If high school graduation rates and College and Career Readiness rates are appalling for English Language learners in New York State, why are the International and Newcomer schools so successful?
The school and support organization leaders described a methodology: teams of teachers working in a highly collaborative setting with the authority to create curriculum, teachers who are partners in every aspect of the school, schools that design their own assessment tools, and, a not-for-profit support organization that both advocates for the schools, organizes and provides professional development,
In a school system plagued by top-down management, endless conflict between the school district leadership and the union, parents marginalized, a dysfunctional system that continues to disintegrate, islands of sanity survive and blossom.
Regent Cashin asked how the Internationals would tweak the Danielson Frameworks to address teachers in English Language learner classrooms. A simple answer: the teachers are working on an iteration of the Frameworks to make them relevant to the student they teach. Not consultants, not Tweed bureaucrats, teachers.
Regent Young mused whether the highly collaborative culture of the International Schools/Newcomer schools could be a model for all schools?
One can only hope that the next mayor and the next chancellor will create a culture of collaboration among all stakeholders, a culture that welcomes parents and respects teachers, a culture that honors and supports teachers and school leaders … a nirvana (In general terms nirvāṇa is a state of transcendence involving the subjective experience of release from a prior state of bondage).