Flight of the Dreamers

I’ve written before about the challenges facing DACA recipients unless Congress acts and noted Tennessee’s Attorney General changed his stance after some focused advocacy.

Now, some Tennessee Dreamers are joining others from around the country in lobbying Congress to take immediate action.

Here’s more from a press release on the Tennessee connection:

Dreamer Yenin E., a student at Trevecca University, wants to be a Christian bilingual counselor, but if she loses DACA protection, she will be out of luck.

 

Yenin, who lives in Smyrna, is one of three Nashville-area young people who are in Washington today through Thursday to talk to members of the Tennessee congressional delegation about passing the Dream Act to allow them to remain in the country. They will be joining approximately 100 Dreamers from 25 states around the country.

 

“Tennessee has been my home ever since I was 4 years old. I have been serving my community through the National Honor Society, Rotary, and BETA club, and I graduated with honors as a Tennessee Scholar,” she said. “I work two jobs, one as a cashier in my community and also as a preschool teacher to pay my way through school.”

 

“Losing DACA would leave me without the ability to pay for my tuition and pursue my dreams of becoming a licensed professional counselor.”

 

Yenin is one of nearly 700,000 individuals brought to this country, undocumented, as children. As of now, these Dreamers, as they are known, can stay and work under limited conditions without being deported, under the protection of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

 

But the Trump administration has decided to rescind DACA, and protection for Dreamers could end. The Dream Act, if passed, would allow them to continue their work and their studies in this country.

 

Members of Congress and their staffs will hear stories first-hand from Dreamers like Yenin, who was born in Latin America.

 

“I want to be a Christian bilingual counselor so that I can help those who have been impacted by our immigration system, other tragic life events, or are struggling with mental health,” she said. “My dream of helping those in need would not be possible without DACA.”

 

Also on today’s trip to Washington is Molly Haynes with Equal Chance for Education, a local foundation that works with Dreamers to help them go to college and succeed.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport


 

The Data Wars: Herb Strikes Back

Yes, the Data Wars continue. Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) gained new hope recently when 33 members of Nashville’s Metro Council penned a letter supporting resistance to the Achievement School District’s request for student data.

Now, Tennessee’s Attorney General has weighed-in and says the alliance of MNPS and Shelby County must comply with the ASD’s request. What happens if they don’t? Nate Rau notes in the Tennessean:

McQueen’s warning leaves open the possibility the state would dock education dollars from Metro and Shelby schools if they continue to deny her request.

It wouldn’t be the first time for Nashville, as the Haslam administration withheld $3.4 million in state funds in 2012 after the school board refused to approve controversial Great Hearts charter school.

Withholding state BEP funds is a favorite “ultimate weapon,” used in the Great Hearts controversy and also threatened during the TNReady debacle in year one of that test that wasn’t.

During the debate that ultimately saw Nashville schools lose funds in a BEP penalty, Commissioner Kevin Huffman and the Department of Education had an ally in then-Nashville Mayor Karl Dean. Joey Garrison reported in the (now defunct) City Paper at the time:

By this point, Huffman had already facilitated a July 26 meeting to discuss Great Hearts’ next move, a gathering that took place just hours before Great Hearts’ revised application would go before the Metro board for second consideration. The meeting site: the office of Mayor Karl Dean, also a Great Hearts backer. In attendance, among others, were Huffman, Dean, Barbic, Deputy Mayor Greg Hinote, Great Hearts officials Dan Scoggin and Peter Bezanson, and Bill DeLoache, a wealthy Nashville investor and one of the state’s leading charter school proponents.

As Rau points out, the current controversy stems from a newly-passed state law giving charter schools the opportunity to request student data from district schools. It seems, however, that there is some dispute over the intent of that law. Rau explains:

Slatery’s opinion also said that the student data may be used for the ASD to promote its schools to prospective students. State Rep. John Forgety, who chairs a House education committee and supported the legislation, told The Tennessean the intent was not to create a law that allowed districts to market to each other’s students.

So it seems the legislature may need to revisit the issue to clear things up.

Also unclear: Where do the current candidates for Governor stand on protecting student data vs. providing marketing information to competing districts and schools?

Stay tuned for more. Will the Shelby-MNPS alliance continue their resistance? Will Commissioner McQueen unleash the power of BEP fund withholding? Will this issue end up in court?

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport


 

Herb Backs Down

Earlier this year, I featured an excerpt from a piece written by Mike Stein about Tennessee’s Attorney General, Herb Slatery, and his support for ending the DACA — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – program.

Stein notes that while Slatery joined with Attorneys General in several other states in sending a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions calling for an end to DACA (and threatening a lawsuit), the conservative CATO Institute actually supports maintaining DACA for its economic benefits.

Now that some reports suggest President Trump may be taking action to end DACA, let’s look at who Herb Slatery would have deported.

Chalkbeat had this report of a Nashville student-turned-educator who is also a beneficiary of the DACA program:

Ruiz knows what it’s like to live with uncertainty about his future.

His mother brought him to the United States to give him a better shot at graduating from high school and going to college, which she hadn’t been able to do in Mexico.

He attended public schools in Nashville, where he mastered English by the third grade.

When DACA was announced during his freshman year at Trevecca, Ruiz applied on the very first day. “DACA was an avenue for me to work hard and do what I wanted with that,” he said. “It made me feel in control and empowered.”

After graduating with a degree in history, Ruiz applied to Teach For America and was assigned to an elementary school in Denver. Realizing that his passion is working with high school students, he moved this year to STRIVE Prep Excel, a charter high school where he teaches Spanish.

For background, here’s how Chalkbeat describes DACA:

The policy gives protections, but not citizenship, for two years at a time to undocumented immigrants who came here as children.

Carlos Ruiz was brought to Nashville at age 6. He didn’t ask to come here. He didn’t deliberately evade the nation’s laws. He attended public schools in Nashville. He graduated from a college in Nashville. He decided to become a teacher.

Slatery sent a letter TODAY to Tennessee’s U.S. Senators announcing he’s pulling Tennessee out of litigation over DACA. Specifically, Slatery notes:

There is a human element to this, however, that is not lost on me and should not be ignored. Many of the DACA recipients, some of whose records I reviewed, have outstanding accomplishments and laudable ambitions, which if achieved, will be of great benef,rt and service to our country. They have an appreciation for the opportunities afforded them by our country.

The sad reality is that our Congress hasn’t taken a serious look at immigration reform that would address situations like Ruiz’s. Until they do, DACA provides protection for the children of immigrants. Children like Carlos Ruiz who has decided to take the opportunity he was given and serve others.

Slatery’s letter calls for legislative solution – seemingly in direct opposition to the Trump Administration’s position.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport


 

*An earlier version of this story did not include details of Slatery’s letter released today.

Where’s Herb?

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery is no stranger to signing letters or joining lawsuits to make political points or weigh-in on policy. He did so recently in opposing DACA in spite of the benefits the program carries for Tennessee families and communities.

This week, Attorneys General in 18 states filed suit against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos asking her to keep a rule designed to protect student loan borrowers.

NPR reports:

Attorneys general from Massachusetts, New York and 16 other states filed suit against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her department Thursday, accusing DeVos of breaking federal law and giving free rein to for-profit colleges by rescinding the Borrower Defense Rule.

The filing by 18 states and Washington, D.C., asks a U.S. District Court to declare the Education Department’s delay of the rule unlawful and to order the agency to implement it. The states say they have pursued “numerous costly and time-intensive investigations and enforcement actions against proprietary and for-profit schools” that violated consumer protection laws.

Slatery wasn’t among the Attorneys General signing-on to the suit.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey framed the issue this way:

“Since Day 1, Secretary DeVos has sided with for-profit school executives against students and families drowning in unaffordable student loans,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said in a news release about Thursday’s court filing. “Her decision to cancel vital protections for students and taxpayers is a betrayal of her office’s responsibility and a violation of federal law. We call on Secretary DeVos and the U.S. Department of Education to restore these rules immediately.”

Here’s Slatery’s record: For using state resources to separate families and weaken our economy by suing to end DACA, against using state resources to protect Tennessee students who take out loans to attend for-profit colleges.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport