A southern California man intended to challenge the federal law that mandates public schools educate K-12 migrant students, and while local officials nixed his proposed initiative, it raised long-standing economic concerns in the illegal immigration education debate.
Torrance resident Joseph Turner authored the American Children First Initiative, which would prohibit migrant students from attending the Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District located two hours east of Los Angeles. Also, he proposed charging “non-resident” tuition to non-citizen parents for their American-born children.
Turner, originally from the San Bernardino area, filed the initiative with the county’s Registrar of Voters on April 3. He admits he chose the Inland Empire school district because of its larger conservative voter base. He spoke to Breitbart Texas, saying that, as a father, he worries California education quality will continue to sink as schools reroute more resources to meet the needs of increasing numbers of migrant students.
“We can’t put America first if we don’t put American children first,” Turner said, trumpeting presidential candidate Trump’s “America first” trope, tempered by a reality that California is one of the highest-taxed states in the nation, pulling $60 billion in tax revenues out of its people’s pockets every year.
“That money is being stolen from our children and their education suffers because of it. If we were to redirect those funds to our children, California could have a first class K-12 education system,” he stated.
Turner also founded the group American Children First. He identifies as a nationalist, and explained to Breitbart Texas he means this in the sense that he believes in the concept of American exceptionalism, adding, “We are the California canaries sounding the alarm against the perils of unchecked illegal immigration and its deleterious impacts on our society.”
His critics call him a racist for his views. Indivisible Yucaipa Area lambasted Turner, asserting they were “protecting our community from hate.” However, these progressive activists are part of a movement mobilizing to resist “Trump’s agenda” and promote “reactionary change.” Breitbart News reported some of Indivisible’s parent organization leaders are openly associated with groups financed by George Soros.
Last week, San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters Michael Scarpello tossed Turner’s initiative, saying the county had no “legal vehicle” through which it could be placed on the ballot. Breitbart Texas spoke to county spokesman David Wert who said California school districts do not have the legal authority “to create admission standards or tuition.” He stated, “Although there may be some instances in which a citizen can pursue a ballot measure at the local school district level, the San Bernardino County Registrar’s point is that he can’t process a ballot measure for a school district that calls for action outside the district’s purview.”
Despite the impasse, Turner told Breitbart Texas, “This is very far from over.”
He said he was exploring several options and hopes other school districts and state legislatures take steps to challenge Plyler v. Doe, recalling the 1982 U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-to-4 decision that overturned a 1975 Texas statute which withheld state funds from educating children who were not legally admitted into the United States. That law denied them public school enrollment unless their parents paid an annual $1,000 tuition per child to compensate for lost state funding. The nation’s highest court ended the practice of non-citizen parents paying tuition. They also ruled the Texas statute violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, determining migrant children had protection from discrimination unless a substantial state interest could be shown to justify it.
In an opinion, the four dissenting justices wrote: “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.”
American Children First’s website proclaims: “Plyler v. Doe must go!”
The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) said similarly in a 2016 report, The Elephant in the Classroom: Mass Immigration’s Impact on Public Education, which analyzes the astronomical costs of illegal immigration in the classroom and suggests overturning Plyler v. Doe as one possible solution to a looming educational and economic catastrophe.
FAIR projects public school enrollment will rise 6.3 percent to 53 million by 2024 with no promise of delivering a quality education to everyone. Analysts underscored that between 2008 and 2013, capital spending to upgrade facilities, add space, or build new schools dropped 37 percent. By 2015, 297,000 education jobs vanished while student numbers ballooned by 804,000.
Annually, U.S. taxpayers fork out roughly $59.2 billion to teach and provide services to students with Limited English Proficiency (LEP), fronting 98.9 percent of these expenditures through local and state taxes. Since the feds only kick in around one percent of these costs, FAIR dubbed this program, “one of the largest unfunded mandates ever enacted by the U.S. government.”
Border states California, Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico feel the brunt of the fiscal drain, but FAIR found 11 of the 13 states spending more than $1 billion on LEP programs are nowhere near the U.S.-Mexico border: Colorado, Illinois, Virginia, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Maryland and Washington.
Californians footed the nation’s highest tab to educate 1.5 million LEP students — $16.2 billion — $16.3 billion after factoring in the federal contribution. By comparison, Texas, with 800,000 LEP students paid $7.6 billion, which includes $98 million from the feds.
The report highlighted LEP student performance as so dismal it birthed another pricy program, Long Term English Learners (LTEL), for pupils enrolled in public school six or more years but make scant progress learning English. The National Education Association (NEA) estimated one quarter to half of all LEP students nationwide are LTEL. The California Department of Education reports 62.4 percent of LEP students “at risk” of becoming LTEL.
FAIR also highlighted a lacking supply of LEP-certified teachers, absent program funding, and overworked educators who must juggle time and resources to as many students as possible. Even the San Francisco Chronicle reported the state’s English learners lower academic performance by diverting limited education resources; and the state scores lower than average for the nation in reading, mathematics, and science.
Unaccompanied alien minors (UAM) enter the U.S. illegally through the southern border, drive up national LEP expenses by around $1.7 billion annually, says FAIR, estimating 119,000 UAMs are stateside. California spends $10,808 to educate a UAM. Texas, which leads all states on its UAM head count, spends $9,413 per UAM.
Besides challenging Plyler v. Doe legislatively to overturn the ruling, FAIR recommended several fixes including ending sanctuary cities to remove the incentive for illegal immigrants to resettle their families in states like California, with its broad sanctuary policies and LEP costs that place a “disproportionately larger tax burden on law-abiding citizens.”
In 1994, Californians passed Proposition 187, which was later struck down. The measure prohibited immigrants illegally in the state from using non-emergency health care, public education, and other services funded by taxpayers.
Last week, former U.S. Representative Andrea Seastrand (R-CA) wrote in a San Luis Obispo Tribune op-ed “illegal immigration may help illegal immigrants, but it’s harming the quality of life for the average Californian.” She called Americans “a compassionate people” but noted “we don’t have unlimited funds to care for and educate the entire world.”
She criticized state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson who, “instead of seeing that as a problem for Californians who are here legally and are being shortchanged,” encourages school districts to declare themselves “safe havens.” Said Seastrand: “We are a nation of law, not of trendy social justice experiments.”
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