Tag Archives: TAP

Will Presidential Politics Trump Fairness and Justice for Undocumented Immigrant High School Graduates? Is the Governor Sacrificing Undocumented Immigrant Students for Personal Ambition?

The path to the middle class leads through post-secondary education: a trade school, a community or a 4-year college. President Obama convened a community college summit in Washington this week.

In an increasingly competitive world economy, America’s economic strength depends upon the education and skills of its workers. In the coming years, jobs requiring at least an associate degree are projected to grow twice as fast as those requiring no college experience. To meet this need, President Obama set two national goals: by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world, and community colleges will produce an additional 5 million graduates.

Attending college costs money and for many of our kids paying rent and putting food on the table precludes paying college tuition. There are a range of programs to support high school graduates, both grant and loan programs to assist in paying for college.

To access the grants/loans students must file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application. The form is enormously complex, perhaps as complex as the Affordable Care Act application form. The Center for NYC Affairs has published a wonderful guide for families and students,

We have … created a new website for educators and families available atwww.understandingfafsa.org. The website features PDFs of the guide in English and Spanish as well as a presentation version suitable for classrooms and large groups. Print copies are available while supplies last. Please go to http://www.freefafsaguide.com to order.

There is a substantial glitch: undocumented students are not eligible for financial aid – aid is available at some private colleges.

New York State provides grants through the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), except for undocumented students,

The New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) helps eligible New York residents pay tuition at approved schools in New York State … annual TAP award can be up to $5,000. Because TAP is a grant, it does not have to be paid back.

TAP is available for students attending SUNY, CUNY and not-for-profit independent degree-granting colleges on a part-time basis. To be eligible for TAP, you must:
 Be a United States citizen or eligible noncitizen
 Be a legal resident of New York State

You may ask, didn’t New York State pass a Dreamer Act that would allow undocumented students access TAP, the answer: no, and the reason, Governor Cuomo does not support the bill, that’s right, the leading liberal candidate for the presidency, a governor who supports a wide range of liberal causes does not support opening a pathway to college for undocumented students who have graduated from high school and met the admissions requirements for college. Unbelievable!

Around the state youth organizations are mobilizing to lobby the legislature and the governor.

Over a year ago Governor Cuomo formed a blue-ribbon 25-member panel, the Cuomo Commission on Education Reform. The Commission held hearings around the state, issued a preliminary report and, four months after the expected date released their final report; without fanfare, almost in the middle of the night, the tepid report supported early childhood education, merit pay for teachers and called for a ballot imitative approving a $2-billion bond issue to purchase technology.

There was no mention of the pitiable graduation rates of English Language learners or support for the Dreamer Act.

* The graduate rate in NYS is 74%, only 34% of ELLs
* The college and career readiness rate is 35%, only 7% for ELLs
* The grade 3-8 ELA scores on the 2013 state test was 33% passing, only 3% for ELLs.

However, there are highly successful models in the state. The fourteen International High Schools in New York City, public high schools that only accept students who have been in country four years or less have a 64% graduation rate – twice the rate of ELLs around the state.

Part of the problem is the State Education Department; the regulations governing the education of English Language learners are basically unchanged for the last thirty years. The Department has been trying to rewrite the regulations for over a year – advocates are sharply critical of the drafts (i.e., compliance regs written by lawyers).

The governor’s callous disregard for students who have struggled through high school, passed courses and Regents exams, and gained acceptance to college is incomprehensible.

The State Education Department must accept the Italian proverb, Il pesce puzza dalla testa, the successes are schools that have created their own models, schools that have basically shunned the rigid, compliance-based state regulations.

As you leaf through the names of the 2014 Intel Competition semi-finalists you see name after name of students who are immigrants or children of immigrants – they are the future of America, as they have always been. To place obstacles in the path of a next generation of scientists, entrepreneurs and artists is fool-hearty and short-sighted.

Dreaming: Will NYS Pass the Dream Act Providing Tuition Assistance for Undocumented Students?

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).