Friday Reading List: Supporting Undocumented Students, Gentrification & Political Power, and "Stealing" Schools

Timothy Pratt of The Hechinger Report looks at how some colleges are supporting undocumented students:

... while the fate of undocumented students is still up in the air, and the effectiveness of promises at other universities to provide them sanctuary still untested, the attention to the issue in Utah and elsewhere has resulted in something much less widely noticed that could also have a big impact: Long-sought additional support is finally being added on campuses to help these students succeed in college. The University of Utah has quietly agreed to create a resource center for undocumented students, and has hired a coordinator to run it. Similar supports have been put in place by [other schools] ... Observers of the protests, and of the new support services for undocumented students, say pressure and attention from the first have led to the second.

It's an ironic twist that it required an existential threat to undocumented students for schools to respond to their needs. Despite rampant disagreement about federal immigration policy, surely even the most conservative among us shouldn't want to deport and exclude immigrant students who are already in college, pursuing the textbook version of the American dream. Right?

Michael Harriot of The Root looks at how gentrification affects political power among black communities:

Remember Chocolate City? A majority of D.C.’s City Council is now white. Most of Brooklyn, N.Y.’s state and local officials are, too, and only three of Oakland’s eight City Council members are African American. Nationally, the 115th Congress is the most diverse ever, but it is still dominated by lawmakers who are largely white and Republican. Only 8.9 percent of Congress is black, compared with 13 percent of the population, and while every statistic shows that the country’s demographic makeup favors the Democratic Party, the Republican Party’s advantage keeps growing. State legislatures are no different. In fact, 80 percent of America’s population lives in states controlled at least partially by Republicans. Blacks make up less than 9 percent of state legislatures and hold a whopping zero percentage of governorships.

Harriot has a list of action steps to beat back the consequences of gentrification, including a call to fight gerrymandering that further diminishes electoral power in black communities. As a white person who lives in a diverse neighborhood, I struggle with the tension inherent in trying to live in an integrated community, while not weakening political power among nonwhite people. One of my friends offered me a simple rule - "Don't be a dick" - and that seems to be a good rubric for interpersonal interactions. It's insufficient for considering the political ramifications, though.

In other news, Grace Tatter of Chalkbeat looks at the tension between school choice and accountability in Tennessee:

Some of the 24 Catholic schools in Memphis might not accept school vouchers if their students have to take Tennessee’s state tests, a lobbyist told lawmakers on Wednesday ... How to hold private schools accountable if they accept public funds has been central to the voucher debate in Tennessee and nationwide.

Accountability is not just about how students perform on tests, even though that's part of the calculus here. Accountability also is about upholding federal civil rights law, special education regulations, and nondiscrimination policies. Without safeguards, private schools might enact discriminatory admissions and employment practices, while taking public money.

Finally, Megan DeSombre at Education Connecticut reports on a mother who went to jail for sending her child to a school outside of her district:

It’s been five years since Tanya McDowell made national headlines after she was charged with larceny for “stealing an education” for her son ... While, in 2013, the state decriminalized “stealing an education,” this issue is by no means settled. The Norwalk Public Schools still haven’t stopped hiring private investigators to check up on homeless students ... While it’s understandable for a city and it’s residents to be upset when resources are used on students who reside out-of-the-district, that’s precisely the problem. Connecticut’s Education system relies too heavily on property taxes. Connecticut’s education funding system is inequitable  — so inequitable, that’s it’s driven some parents to enroll their children in schools outside their district in order to give them a fair shot.

Connecticut has some communities with the highest concentrations of wealth in America, which are adjacent to cities with high concentrations of poverty. These wealth disparities are unconscionable on their own, but the state doubles-down on the inequity by maintaining a school funding system that relies heavily on property taxes to finance public schooling. Institutional racism and the use of property taxes to fund public schooling are the dual original sins of American public schooling; and they are mutually reinforcing. In the long term, no technocratic reforms will be successful on their own without addressing these two foundational problems.

Have a nice weekend.