DALLAS, Texas–Nerves are starting to fray. Texans want answers about the tsunami of undocumented and unaccompanied minors that may well hit public school classrooms this Fall. Breitbart Texas reported that the Clear Lake Tea Party (CLTP) voiced strong concerns about how these minors will be absorbed into classrooms across the state. Locally, it stands to tax Texans in more ways than one and how schools prepare comes with a surprising answer.
Breitbart Texas asked Texas Education Agency (TEA) Director of Media Relations Debbie Ratcliffe who said, “We are monitoring the situation but, at this point, we have no districts report any issues to us.”
Ratcliffe stated that this may be, in part, because districts haven’t been impacted during the summer break months.
However, the actual impact may be very difficult to account for because “the courts have told us that we can’t ask what their citizenship status is. If they are living in a Texas district, they can attend a Texas public schools,” Ratcliffe added.
CLTP may want to know if a local ISD is adequately funded or has sufficient security or staff for teaching English as a Second Language (ESL), counselors, mental health professionals, free lunches programs, or just plain available classroom space and teacher staffing, but those questions may go unanswered.
This is because of the 1982 U.S. Supreme Court ruling Plyler v. Doe,which struck down the 1975 Texas statute that withheld state funds for the education of children who were not legally admitted into the United States and authorized local school districts to deny enrollment to such children.
The decision also ended the practice of illegal immigrant parents in Texas having to pay tuition as a way to compensate for lost tax dollars in educating their non-citizen children.
In a vote of 5-to-4, the Court found the Plyler v. Doe in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, ruling that undocumented immigrant children had protection from discrimination unless a substantial state interest could be shown to justify it.
The dissenting justices wrote an opinion in which they pointed out that the “Constitution does not provide a cure for every social ill, nor does it vest judges with a mandate to try to remedy every social problem.”
This is not just the law in Texas. This is federal law and it provides protections against discrimination to all K-12 undocumented minors illegally being schooled in the United States.
In fact, on May 8, 2014, the U.S. Department of Education and Department of Justice issued a joint “Dear Colleague” letter to public education admistration offices as a friendly reminder of the 32 year old U.S. Supreme Court decision, including the TEA.
The TEA legal department explained in a statement to Breitbart Texasthat in this letter “the federal Departments of Justice and Education have gone further, warning against practices that might discourage enrollment based on immigrations status such as requiring a Social Security Number.”
The letter was full of warnings — against requiring a Social Security Number or a birth certificate to enroll a child into a local public school or “prohibiting” a child from attending a school because the parents or guardians couldn’t prove their own legal status.
“As Plyler makes clear,” the letter states, “the undocumented or non-citizen status of a student (or his parent or guardian) is irrelevant to the student’s entitlement to an elementary and secondary public education.”
“Dear Colleague” credits the Plyler decision as the reason why “a State may not deny access to a basic public education to any child and that denying “innocent children” access to a public education was explained by the Court as something that would impose “a lifetime hardship on a discrete class of children not accountable for their disabling status…”
The letter also indicated that it sent because the two federal government agencies said they became aware of “recent incidences of student enrollment practices that may chill or discourage the participation, or lead to the exclusion, of students based on their parents’ or guardians’ actual or perceived citizenship or immigration status. These practices contravene Federal law.”
Tucson-based teacher and “The Cult of Common Core” author Brad McQueen noted the “psychic hotline moment” of the letter in the Arizona Daily Independent. He suggested that this was eerie timing for a letter to come “just before the current humanitarian current humanitarian crisis of unaccompanied children illegally arriving at our borders.”
By the way, this letter is not new. “Dear Colleague” was originally issued on May 6, 2011 and it’s a virtual dead ringer for its replacement. It, too, included the identical verbiage about “recent incidences”. Both letters were penned on the Obama Administration’s watch.
As the TEA legal department noted, the two joint federal departments have gone further and the letter isn’t only Plyler-based. It Plyler-plus, citing the protections of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Titles IV and VI, and the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education, anti-discrimination protections for American minorities, as part of the undocumented students civil rights mix.
This letter was issued by the Civil Rights Division (U.S. Department of Justice) and Office for Civil Rights (U.S. Department of Education). Title IV prohibits discrimination on bases of race, color or national creed while Title VI stops discrimination against welfare recipients, which also applies to K-12 schooled students who enter the United States illegally.
“Dear Colleague” asserts that by denying a child regardless of legal status to live “within the structure of our civic institutions,” essentially forecloses on their futures and any “realistic possibility that they will contribute in even the smallest way to the progress of our Nation.”
The letter also tells schools what they can do — like ask parents to present a utility bill or rent stub as proof of residential status upon school enrollment. This means, residency is determined by living within a school district.
In 2011, the Dallas Morning News asked, “How many illegal immigrants attend the state’s public schools, supported by taxpayer money?” The answer given was “unknown because schools do not track students’ legal status.” That’s not necessarily so.
“Dear Colleague” clearly acknowledges collection of this data: “Moreover, we recognize that districts have Federal obligations, and in some instances State obligations, to report certain data such as the race and ethnicity of their student population. While the Department of Education requires districts to collect and report such information, districts cannot use the acquired data to discriminate against students; nor should a parent or guardian’s refusal to respond to a request for this data lead to a denial of his or her child enrollment.”
Ratcliffe told Breitbart Texas that it’s not that they don’t know, but schools cannot assign any consequences to an answer or a refusal to answer.
All U.S. public schools report these statistics to the U.S. Department of Education on the same longitudinal data-base systems that have come under fire because of the Family Education Right and Privacy Act (FERPA) and Common Core State Standards as Breitbart News reported.