Privatizing Public Education in North Carolina

Amanda Huber MSW, LCSWA

In North Carolina, plans are being made for saving 50 million dollars a year by denying children access to public education. There has been a push to privatize public education in states all across the nation, and North Carolina is no exception. The State plans to create a grant that will reallocate 50 million to private institutions instead of going towards the budgets of public schools.

While advocates are fighting the State to prevent issuing vouchers to students of low-income, another war is being fought to prevent online private schools from also shutting down public school doors. Fortunately, a North Carolina court has placed plans for an internet based school on hold.  However the group, N.C. Learns, continues to fight the ruling.

According to Real Facts NC reports:

N.C. Learns, a group behind a proposal for a 6,000 student virtual charter school, continues to fight a judge’s order that put the school’s plans on indefinite hold. The school would have been run by K12, Inc., a Wall Street-traded educational company that generated more than $700 million in revenue, mostly from public dollars for online-only schools it runs in more than two-dozen states around the country. K12 Inc. was founded by a former Goldman Sachs banker and by William Bennett, the Republican writer and talk-show host, with an infusion of cash from the former disgraced junk-bond king Mike Milken. Its teachers generally work from their homes, communicating with their students by e-mail or phone.This notion is disturbing on several levels as the program leans to a sort of discrimination. Being from a different part of the country and being bi-cultural personally, I find this is disturbing. Images of apartieds and segrigation start to come to mind as the idea of privatization takes control. Private schools do not operate under the same guidelines as the public school system, and many in the south come from a faith based community. Faith based communities do not take into account the differences between religions and private schools do not have the same systems in place to support and nurture growth that the public school system provides.

photo credit: villy21 via photopin cc

One argument being used against the public education system is that privatizing will help students receive a better quality education, and the state will spend less money in general on public school education in which they conclude will reduce spending. The proposed grants will be offered to students who meet the minimums for free and reduced lunch, but it does not stipulate how these kids will be chosen.

There is a small loophole which states that public funds will not be used for religious studies which may eliminate religious institutions with schools. In addition, being that the institution will be private, how will there be appropriate oversight?

On the issue of race, one has to consider the children who are mixed status or undocumented status who will be excluded from this bill. Also, how will students fair without ESL programs that are readily available in public schools? Will they fall between the cracks? In talking about falling between the cracks, what students will benefit from a home based education system, and who will make that determination?

For many low-income children, school is where some have their basic needs met were they have lunch, socialize, leave abusive situations or they are in-contact with people who will be able to help they with difficult home situations. Being in community mental health for a few years, most referrals for services come from the school system, concerned teachers, and staff who want the best for these students. The notion of privatizing the system to a home-based charter, even if it is not for the entire NC student population, it will lower the standards of care and protections for poor children across the state.

Immigration Bill Passes the Senate Vote, What’s Next?

by Amanda Huber MSW, LCSWA

Within days of each other, The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was repealed, the Filibuster in Texas stopped an anti-abortion bill, and the Supreme Court refused to rule on Prop 8. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 endured a devastating blow with the Supreme Court striking down section 4 requiring states with historical discrimination practices to seek pre-clearance before modifying voting laws, and Senate Bill (S. 744) addressing immigration passed the Senate with a vote 68 to 32.

Infographic provided by Quartz
Infographic provided by QuartzWhat does S. 744 : The Immigration Bill Address:

What does S. 744 : The Immigration Bill Address:

Border Security: DHS (Department of Homeland Security) will tighten up on border security and it provides a budget of 6.5 Billion to increase resources and infrastructure, more tax dollars spent  on basic border surveillance.

Immigrant Visas: RPI (Registered Provisional Immigrant) is the status that will be given to immigrants who meet specific legal standards as addressed in S. 744.  The ability to apply for family members who are in the country without updated documentation or  illegal status will be granted a path to citizenship.  This is a costly matter and lower income families are less likely to meet the minimum standards.

Visa Updates: Changes regarding different documents including V(visiting )visas, U (undocumented) visas, RPI (Registered Provisional Immigrant) visas and LPR (Legal Permanent Resident) visas, and the qualifications an individual must face along their journey toward citizenship.

The Dreamers:  Dreamers are childhood arrivals who have advocated for their access to education, drivers licensing and to basic human rights. They are included in this bill and will be allowed a fast track to citizenship.

Access to Benefits: Dependent upon the type of visa received, governmental aid provided to many at-risk populations in programs such as Medicaid, Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) and Social Security may or may not be provided. For example, Registered Provisional Immigrants (RPI) are ineligible. However, RPI status immigrants will be allowed to operate in a the private market system for medical insurance benefits.

Employer Enforcement: E-Verify  and work authorization guidelines. This section of  S. 744 includes worker protections against exploitation. This section gives rights to temporary farm workers (those who hold H-2A visas) who hold  temporary agricultural visas.  In the past, this population has been exploited by large farms that do not want to inform their workers of the rights they have as employees in the United States.

The path to citizenship in some cases will take up to 13 years to accomplish. This comes at a time where Latino voices and Latino storytellers have been able to have a stronger presence in the immigration dialogue. The passage of S. 744 in the Senate was a step toward equality and justice, but it still needs House support in order to become law. The Republican majority House may prevent S. 744 from being voted on without a majority of House members consent. According to Speaker John Boehner, House Republicans have their own immigration bill.

Marriage Equality for LGBT Immigrants

Yesterday, the LGBTQ Community celebrated the end of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). However, the pathway to marriage equality has additional barriers for LGBT immigrants. While some celebrated the basic acknowledgment of their relationships, others like Sean Brooks and his husband Steve celebrated the end of deportation proceedings.

While DOMA was in effect, same sex married couples faced separation when their partner’s visas expired.  For other LGBTQ Immigrant couples like Christina and Eve, their family was strained because DOMA denied them the ability to petition for a green card. Christina who is a veteran married Eve who is an immigrant, and DOMA did not afford them the same rights and privileges as heterosexual couples. With the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”, the elimination of DOMA marks another leap toward marriage equality.

In the gang of  8’s immigration legislation, an amendment to include same sex couples in immigration reform was shot down by the political voices of Lindsay Graham and Marco Rubio.

“Can you imagine pitting the L.G.B.T. community against the Hispanic community?” an aide to Senator Robert Menendez, a member of the Gang of Eight, told me before the vote. “Are we crazy?”

The end of DOMA signals the end of oppression for the LGBTQ community in many aspects of American culture; specifically for immigration proceedings- what should families know? ~ The New Yorker

Immigration Equality set out to write a checklist of what families should know. At  the top of that list is the confirmation that same sex couples be able to apply for green cards and be allowed to apply even if the state of application does not recognize marriage equality.

In an interview with Kevin Johnson, Dean of the UC Davis School of Law and an immigration law expert, he stated the legalities were quite complicated.

“It’s far easier to change the law to recognize same-sex marriages than to wait for the courts to do it,” he said.

It’s not likely this will occur via immigration reform, though. Senate Judiciary Committee members opposed to Leahy’s original amendment in May said they feared it could bring down the entire bill. His latest amendment faced slim chances of getting a floor vote, and most likely won’t in light of the Supreme Court decision.

The Senate could vote on the immigration package as early as this week, and there’s a good possibility it will be approved. But all bets are off in the Republican-led House, which has yet to come up with its own comprehensive immigration plan.

E-Verify: Could It Be Used to Track All Citizens

In the recently drafted immigration reform bill, it is 800 pages in length which incorporates several amendments, and it’s still in the early stages of debate and drafting. However, one of the most interesting components of this bill is the proposal of a “photo tool” to assist with e-verify. It may sound reasonable on the surface, but shouldn’t we also be looking past the immediate reason for the photo tool in the e-verify program in order to consider long-term implications and threats to our freedom?

The gang of eight, the immigration reform coalition, has added a plan that will create a national photo database, what is this and how does this play into the language of discrimination? Well, think of e-verify, but this could prove to be more intrusive. E-Verify of course is the system in which social security numbers are verified to determine citizenship status, and the new system of this “photo tool” will use individual photo identification to determine residency status for work purposes.

Rand Paul was quoted by Global Dispatch,

“Error rates reported by government and private audits of E-Verify are extraordinarily high. E-Verify mistakenly approves a majority of unlawful immigrant job applicants and, worse, misidentifies about one percent of American applicants as unlawful. That opens up another legal odyssey for many Americans who should not have to ask permission from the federal government to work.”

Being that e-verify is an electronic program that is a partnership between the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security, the original program was created to verify legal status. However, there is a growing fear that the amount of information collected in this database will be used for other purposes.

photo credit: SalFalko via photopin cc
photo credit: SalFalko via photopin cc

When social security numbers were created and passed as legislation, they were not used to verify “legal” status. Social security numbers were set up to track earnings and were later used as an identification number as it is unique to each person. The use of a Social Security number as an identification tool has been problematic as it only assigns a number to the person, or so it was thought. Since the adoption of the social security number, large government systems have tied the number to our taxes, loans, federal benefits programs, human service assistance programs, driver’s licenses, military and veteran services among others. In the age we live in, technology advances has made the unique identification number even more easily tracked using electronic measures. Living in this technologically rich world, adding a photo to the e-verify program would allow the government an unparalleled opportunity to track, or have a history of every American. Social security numbers hold the history of employment, educational systems, drivers licensing, IRS claims/ Taxes, and other social service involvement. Other concerns with this bill have been regarding the cost of the E-Verify program, The Society for Human Resource Management writes:

“The Congressional Budget Office estimated that a national E-Verify mandate would cost, on average, $1.2 billion annually, not including DHS personnel costs (the hiring of thousands of new enforcement agents would bump the price tag higher). A national E-Verify system would be costly for employers, too. Based on the estimates in the DHS’ Regulatory Impact Analysis for its 2008 E-Verify mandate for federal contractors, employers nationwide would spend”

In adding a photo to make sure “Carl” is not really “Carlos” is this now unconstitutional? Adding this photo and creating an expensive database full of information regarding every American citizen is concerning. In short, the argument remains, are we a nation “securing our borders” or are we putting the average citizen at risk of exploitation due to internet hacking and/or misuse of information?

The Time is Now: Immigration Rally 2013 in Washington DC

By Amanda Huber MSW Candidate

On April 10th, 2013, thousands of people from across the nation rallied in Washington, DC for the “Time is Now” Immigration Rally. I embarked on this journey with a local organizing group, El Pueblo, out of Raleigh, North Carolina. We piled into three buses on a Wednesday morning on ride for a total of 10 hours to a 4 hour demonstration. At the demonstration, I met amazing individuals, organizers, students, and professionals with the common goal of advocating for the people. Passionate people who are directly affected by the social policy of immigration reform, as well as people who are indirectly affiliated with reform and reform movements. Once the group arrived in DC, we came in contact with an array of people from across the country. We also begin meeting people without documents who took the calculated risk to attend this event from places like Los Angeles, San Antonio, Palm Beach and Pennsylvania.

The political voices that were shared were that of allies, priests, lawyers, congress men and women. Some were first generation and second generation immigrants whom all of which engaged in dialogue to collaborate and advocate for a better quality of life for all immigrants. I met a first generation immigrant who recently received his green card, and his name was Alejandro. Alejandro is 25 years old, and he came to this country when he was 6 years old with his family. Although Alejandro has his papers now, he is still fighting and advocating for his father who still lives in this country under the constant fear of deportation because of his status. In our meeting, he shared insights about growing up Latino and the struggles he had faced without papers.

“I would like to be my name, Alejandro”

Alejandro discusses the focus on having a social security number. The United States places a lot of value on that piece of paper as it is the easiest proof anyone can use to prove their citizenship. I asked Alejandro several questions, and we spoke at length about reform and why he came out to DC for the rally. Alejandro replied, “It is not right the way we are treated for a little piece of paper, that’s my opinion. Everyone is a human being, but we are put in a prison, but not a prison”. When I asked for clarity he explained “we have no freedom, I see it with my mother and father, and they cannot leave the house to go out because the police set up checkpoint to check licenses in Spanish neighborhoods.” He proceeded to talk about the level of anxiety he felt growing up and not having papers.  Alejandro talked about the fear of wondering what took his mother so long at the grocery store, and constantly waiting up with an ear toward the door for her to walk in. His words relayed the constant anxiety and fear that she may have been stopped by the police and sent into custody by immigration enforcement.

This is the real human battle and struggle immigrants are having to face as a result of the social policies enacted and enforced by our government. Now, the question is what role will you take in this dialogue?

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