IPS Board of School Commissioners Approves Plan to Close and Consolidate High Schools

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Protest organized by IPS Community Coalition before board meeting

Protest organized by IPS Community Coalition before board meeting

The Indianapolis Public Schools Board of School Commissioners held a special meeting on Monday, September 18 at 6 p.m. at the John Morton-Finney Center for Educational Services to vote on the high school closure and consolidation plan.  Although there was a small protest before the meeting, the plan presented by IPS district administration passed.  Two commissioners, Elizabeth Gore and Venita Moore, voted against the plan; all other commissioners Diane Arnold, Kelly Bentley, Dorene Hoops, Michael O’Connor and Mary Ann Sullivan voted in favor of the plan.

The approved plan includes:

  • Consolidating students into four high schools:  Arsenal Tech, Crispus Attucks, George Washington and Shortridge and making them choice schools where students would select their high school

  • Closing Broad Ripple High School and John Marshall, which was previously a high school but is operating as a middle school for this year, and offering them for sale or lease

  • Converting Arlington High School to a middle school, offering evening high school and relocating staff from Forest Manor and some staff from Facilities Maintenance to the building.

  • Converting Northwest High School to a middle school and relocating the Newcomer program and some staff from Facilities Maintenance to the building

  • Acknowledging Manual High School and Howe High, currently operated by state turnaround partner Charter USA, will not be operated as high schools when they return to the district

Before voting, Commissioner Kelly Bentley, Broad Ripple Alum and former Broad Ripple parent, gave a long statement detailing fond memories which included her attendance at Broad Ripple's Homecoming this year.  Then she shared her revelation, “What I realized is that my memories and the memories of others are about the people of Broad Ripple, classmates and teachers; it’s not about the actual building.”

Audible comments of disagreement could be heard in the packed board room during Bentley comments and during other comments by commissioners who voted in support of the plan.

Commissioner Moore, who voted against the plan, was interrupted by cheers from the audience when she offered an explanation for her decision.

After careful review and discussion with my fellow commissioners, I will have to vote no. I am concerned that it leaves our four remaining high schools all within four miles of downtown when our district is 75 square miles. I do agree we can’t economically support nine high schools and I am committed to finding ways to provide more resources and opportunities at our high schools and I truly support the initiatives to begin reinventing IPS.

Although Commissioner Arnold voted for the plan, she was concerned about the district’s previous track record after a school closing.

I often refer to the fact that when George Washington was closed several years ago, the dropout rate rose to 80% in our community.  Students were sent a letter in the mail that told them to be out on a bus stop at 6 o’clock to travel to Northwest.  There was no support, follow up or transition plan to help students and families adjust to this major change in their educational journey. This was unacceptable and must not happen again.  

Although some people felt the community meetings leading up to the vote was just for show, what many people anticipated, the IPS Board of School Commissioners voting to approve the plan has become reality.  Now, we wait for more details about the transition plan.

 

 

Count Day: The School System’s Worst Holiday

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By Andrew Pillow

“Count day” is upon us. You may not have heard of it, but it has become something of a holiday among educators in districts strapped for cash. You see count day is the day on which roll is taken at a school. The number of students on the roster at that point, will be the number that the district uses to dole out funding.

You see money for schools is distributed via headcount. For example, in Indiana each student is entitled to around $6,000 for education. That money is distributed directly to the school based on the total number of students on the roster at a certain point. Most schools plan their budgets under the assumption that they will be enrolled to capacity. Therefore, being under-enrolled is more than just disappointing for a school… in some cases it’s financially crippling.

Thus, you get informal holidays like count day.

Count day isn’t necessarily a one-day event. It’s more like a season, and it’s decidedly not the most “wonderful time of the year”. Count season is marked by stress and frequently extra work and strain for school staff.

During count season, school discipline is not a priority for cash strapped schools. Schools don’t want to alienate families before count day. Lest they pull their kids before you can secure the funding for them.

During count season, you may be tapped to walk around neighborhoods creepily recruiting kids off the street to attend your school if your school is under enrolled.

Things don’t get a whole lot better after count day either. You see one of the only positives about funding by headcount is that it forces schools to compete for kids. However, that is only the case until count day.

Just like Christmas, Thanksgiving or any other holiday, the day after count day marks the start of a huge sell. Only this time it’s a sell on children. That’s right. Your school couldn’t buy students before but now other schools are just giving them away.

Suspensions, expulsions, and “voluntary withdrawals” all come after count day.

The best part: Pretty much every student you get after count day has left their previous school for one of the above reasons. For those of you that like the excitement of integrating challenging students into an already established culture this is quite fun. For the rest of us not so much. Especially when you consider the fact that it will probably happen two or three more times before the years end.

I can go on and on about the wonders of count season. I haven’t even touched on the count day carols or count day decorations. But I digress, and leave you with this: Merry count day! (Or is it happy count day?)

 

Comment

Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.

Weekend Links (9/17/2017)

Comment

Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.

Thoughts on DACA from students

In his piece “Three Ways Teachers Can Discuss DACA in the Classroom,”  David McGuire asserted educators should discuss what is happening in our current political climate in the classroom.  I agree teachers should not shy away from being a facilitator of these conversations. I gave my high school students the opportunity to write about then later discuss President Trump’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program implemented under President Obama.  Below, I have included some of their thoughts.

“I don’t agree with President Trump’s actions.  Some of those kids need a good life just as much as the kids born in America.  One life is not more important than another.”

“They have been here for a while and to make them leave is not right.  If they are a threat, then I’d send them back.  I bet they are up stressing about being forced to leave everything behind.”

“I disagree with the president’s actions, but I do not want congress to pass a law.”

“I want congress to pass a law so my brother doesn’t get deported.  He’s not a bad person.  He follows the law and is a good guy.”

“I don’t agree with the President because this will take away their education and their jobs.”

“His decision is going to ruin a lot of lives and he just doesn’t care.  Hispanics aren’t all criminals and rapists.  I think he just doesn’t like us.”

“Trump should let these immigrants stay here.  Two of his wives are immigrants.”

“This is wrong.  They’re not trying to take our jobs.  They are trying to survive like everybody else.”

“I agree with Trump’s actions.  It forces congress to do something.  Maybe they will get this law finally passed.”

“If the President would stop and pay attention, he would notice undocumented people work just as hard as people born here.  Some of them work three jobs just to make enough money and some people who were born here complain about the few hours they have to work.”

Although the majority of my students disagreed with President Trump’s decision, they had differing views about what should happen next and how strongly they felt about their position.  As an educator, I believe it is important to be a facilitator of the discussion and not force my viewpoint upon my students.  I ensure students are respectful when viewpoints they disagree with are shared.  I also make sure, when they respond to a classmate they disagree with, they think out their answer and provide evidence to support their opinion instead of saying, “I disagree because that’s dumb.”  Conflict and disagreement is a part of life, but so is understanding and compromise.  A school is a great place for students to learn how to meaningfully engage in discussion and to learn how to listen and consider another viewpoint.  

I hope by giving my students the opportunity to learn, write about and discuss DACA, they have become more informed and more willing to engage appropriately in discourse with another person whether they agree or disagree. I also hope they will be motivated to participate in advocating for others now and in the future.

 

Principal of Arsenal Tech Removed

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“Have you heard?”  Quite a few conversations and text messages I received yesterday began with those three words.  After six weeks into the school year, Julie Bakehorn is no longer the principal of Arsenal Technical High School in Indianapolis Public Schools.  According to Chalkbeat Indiana, Ms. Bakehorn is now a, “principal on assignment.”  Lloyd Bryant who was previously the director of principal development for IPS will now lead the school as interim principal.  

What happens to a school’s climate when you remove a fierce leader  capable of turning failing schools around from their leadership role? According to some teachers in IPS, not only are they disappointed but they simply don’t know what’s next for Arsenal Tech or potentially their school. Many are asking, “What does principal on assignment even mean?  Is the district just making up roles now?”

Ms. Bakehorn is known around IPS as someone who was able to get the job done.  I first heard her speak during the Mind Trust’s Educational Bus Tour which highlights excellent schools in Indianapolis.  At the time, Ms. Bakehorn was the principal of Brookside Elementary School #54, a school I attended in first grade.  She was a focus point on this tour because the school’s grade went from F to A under her leadership.  After she improved Brookside, she was named the principal of Arsenal Tech.  In 2016, she was one of the recipients of the Hubbard Life-Changing Educator Award.  Why has an educator with a track record of success been removed from the helm of her school?

The timing also seems odd.  Next week, IPS Board of School Commissioners will address and vote on the plan to close two high schools and convert two high schools into middle schools.  As a person who attended multiple meetings, there were people who shared publicly or with me privately, they did not understand the district’s decisions.  This sudden change will probably join the list.

Another time I heard Ms. Bakehorn speak was when she addressed my educational leadership cohort at Marian University.  What she said then applies today more than ever. She said,  “Don’t think it isn’t political.”  She wanted us to know as potential future administrators, you should not ignore the political climate of education and that you can get caught in the crossfire.  Is that what this is? Was she caught in the crossfire? Because the district has released very little details, we won’t know.

I wonder how will this change affect the teachers and students at Arsenal Tech?  At one of the high school closure community meetings, I spoke to a current Arsenal Tech teacher who shared how much Ms. Bakehorn supports the school staff and how stress was removed because she allotted time for teachers to plan lessons and activities together.  I also wonder how does this make current IPS administrators or educators who are potentially considering applying to the district for an administrative position feel?  Six weeks in and the district could remove you no matter how talented you are. Who would sign up for that when anything can happen?

What is clear is changes are coming to IPS.  What is not clear is what the long term effects will be.

 

 

Three Ways Teachers Can Discuss DACA in the Classroom

From the White House on September 5, 2017, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced, on behalf of the current administration, the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The DACA program was founded by former President Barack Obama to protect the 800,000 undocumented young people who were brought to the U.S. as children from deportation. These children, referred to as ‘Dreamers,’ dreamed of living life as an Americans. For many of them, America is all they know. In the wake of this announcement, it is important for teachers in classrooms across America to have discussions with their students about DACA regardless of subject and regardless of the school’s demographics because at the end of the day we are all Americans. America should be known as a country that is compassionate and fair. We have to support Dreamers who are our brothers and sisters and we cannot turn our backs on them. Here are three ways teachers can discuss DACA in their classrooms.

1: Answer the question: What is DACA?   

Before DACA, there was the DREAM Act. The DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act was a proposed bill that aimed to help people brought into the country illegally when they were 15 years old or younger.  First introduced in August 2001, the bill eventually failed in the Senate after passing in the House of Representatives in December 2010. Although the DREAM act failed to pass, the immigrants who it would have benefited are still referred to as ‘Dreamers.’

The failed act paved the way for President Obama to introduce DACA in 2012. It allowed people brought to the US illegally as children the temporary right to live, study, and work legally in the America. Teachers can begin with this definition and then take students through an activity to discuss individuals who have benefited from DACA. High school teachers could use Socratic Seminar to discuss DACA.  Giving students background on what DACA means is vital to any conversation about it.  

2: Teachers can use DACA to show students what makes America great.

We often take for granted being Americans. We take for granted the liberties and the freedoms we are afforded living in this country. It is often during school age where those freedoms are taken for granted. DACA reminds us just how fortunate we are to live in this country. Schools should not just teach reading, writing, and arithmetic; schools should also teach us life and give us knowledge that will far outlast those subjects. President Obama said it best, “What makes us American is not a question of what we look like, or where our names come from, or the way we pray. What makes us American is our fidelity to a set of ideas- that all of us are created equal; that all of us deserve the chance to make of our lives what we will.” What a powerful lesson for a teacher to use. Teachers could dissect the quote with students and it would be a great guide for the discussion on what truly makes America great. 

3: Teachers can use DACA to show students how important it is to stand for one another. 

As mentioned previously, schools should teach much more content than subject areas, they should also teach the important soft skills and life skills. DACA gives teachers the platform to teach their students to stand for something. In many schools across America, there are classrooms filled with DACA recipients who right now are living in fear and turmoil about what is going to happen to them. This is the time for teachers to step to the forefront and teach students to be advocates. In classrooms across America, teachers should be working with students to write a statement in support of DACA. Classrooms should be a place where students learn how to write to their politicians on why we should support DACA. Teachers could teach persuasive writing using DACA as the topic.  

Schools need to do more than just support DACA; schools must also fight for the individuals who benefit from DACA. They are under attack. There are 800,000 people being affected. This is nothing more than another example of the current administration’s racist agenda to divide our country. DACA holds the hopes and dreams of people who, just like all of us, want a better life. Many of them only know America and to deport them to essentially what would be foreign land is simply not American. Teachers, we have to come together and have these discussions in our classrooms to ensure our students understand what it means to truly be American.

 

Comment

David McGuire

Mr. McGuire is a middle school teacher in Indianapolis, Teach Plus Policy Fellow, and currently enrolled in a doctoral program at Indiana State University for Educational Leadership. Driven by the lack of having an African American male teacher in his classrooms growing up, David helped launched the Educate ME Foundation, which is geared towards increasing the number of African American male teachers in the classroom. A born and raised Hoosier, he is dedicated to improving educational outcomes for all students in Indianapolis. He describes his educational beliefs as a reformer grounded in the best practices of traditional public schools, where he was mentored by strong leaders. David graduated from Central State University with a degree in English and also holds an MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University.

Pro-Charter is Not Anti-Public

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By Andrew Pillow

If you live in are large city like New York or Chicago you have options about what type of transportation you use. Many find it easier to use the subway and don’t like the hassle of parking so they take the train every day. People who live further out or prefer solitude in their morning commute often find that they prefer to drive. Both of these options have their own pros and cons that vary based on the person and their situation. But driving isn’t considered “Anti-Train” and people who take the train aren’t “Anti-Car”.

We would probably consider it pretty silly if the people who preferred public transportation decided to team up to try and stop people from driving… but we don’t think it’s silly when the people who prefer public schools team up to try and stop people from going to charters.

And make no mistake: It is the exact same thing.

At no point in the charter school debate has someone argued that every child should attend a charter school as that would undermine the central tenant of charter schools which is “choice”. The only people attempting to force all children to attend their schools are the public schools districts. What makes this fact even more distressing is the fact that some public-school advocates do that while maintaining that they are in fact the victims in this situation even while they challenge rather or not charter schools should even exist.  

Ironically, many public school advocates are anti-charter, based on the false narrative that charters are anti-public.

Here are the two scenarios that would make charter schools anti-public:

  1. If students were mandated to go to a charter school instead of their traditional public school
  2. If charter schools actively decreased the ability of public schools to educate the students they have.

Since neither of the above are true one must admit that charter schools are not anti-public.

Traditional public-school advocates will take issue with number 2 in the above list. They say that because money is distributed via head count, students leaving the public-school arena and taking their money elsewhere decreases their capacity to serve the students who are left behind. The problem with this idea is that students already take their money elsewhere. Inner city public schools were hemorrhaging students to suburbs via public-to-public transitions ling before the advent of charters and in most places that makes up a much larger percentage of the loss of public school students.

Additionally, charter schools manage to educate students with the head count money they receive from the government just fine. If charter schools can balance their funding enough to educate students while still meeting the bottom line then public schools should be able to as well. Especially considering the fact that they typically receive more money than charter schools due to property taxes.

In keeping with the above metaphor, the purpose of transportation is to get people from point a to point b. So too is the case with education. They may not be physical destinations in education… but destinations none the less. It's cool if you want to use public transportation to get to your final destination but if students and families decide they want to drive… let them drive.

Comment

Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.

9/11 Through the Eyes of Educators

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Tragedy teaches us that in unity there is strength. Tragedy has a way of making people forget about their differences in the pursuit of a common goal. It was Martin Luther King that said, “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.” Through tragedy we often see the very best in people.

There are events, especially tragedies, that have a way of leaving a lasting impact on the people’s lives. It is something about tragedies that sticks in your mind and you never forget where you were or what you were doing that day. There is a generation of people who can explain where they were when they heard the news that President Kennedy or Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated. There is another generation who can tell you where they were when they heard the Challenger spacecraft exploded. Then, there is my generation and for us September 11, 2001 is our Kennedy assassination, our King assassination, our Challenger explosion. The events of September 11, 2001 is something we will never forget.

On the 16th anniversary of September 11, 2001, this blog will share this day through the eyes of the educators who remember where they were and what they were doing.

What I remember...

I remember that day pretty well. I was in 8th grade at New Augusta North. We were still in our homeroom class and we had a TV in the room. The TV this time was turned to the news and we could see smoke on the screen and a building was on fire. At this time, I had no idea what the Twin Towers were and I had never been to New York City. I just remember my teacher in tears; he turned it off and he explained to us what had happened. I remember in my own 8th grade brain I couldn’t wrap my mind around this tragedy. This was one of the tragedies that didn’t fully impact me until I understood what happened. I then remember going home that day because all after school activities were cancelled and every single channel had coverage of the attacks. It was on the local news channels and sports channels; it was even on the cartoon channels.  Even though then I did not realize it’s historical significance at the time, it was still a day that stuck with me.

Claudia White, 7th grade teacher in MSD of Wayne Township, Indianapolis, IN

Hearing a teacher screaming and crying in the hallway near the end of the school day was my first experience learning about 9/11. I was in the fourth grade and it was almost time for dismissal. When we were dismissed, I remember a couple teachers being on their phones pacing back and forth in the hallway. I believe they were checking on their loved ones. I still did not know for sure exactly what was going on. I don't believe my teacher told us that an attack had taken place, and being an educator now, I think I understand why. It was not until I walked into the house and saw the planes flying into the buildings on the television that I realized something terrible took place. My mom explained to me what was going on and I honestly don't think I realized the severity until a few years later.

Marcus Bates, high school teacher Detroit, MI

I was in 11th grade the day of the September 11th attacks. The strange thing about that day is I did not go to school because I was home sick. What I can remember is waking up and turning on the TV and the only thing I saw was smoke, fire, and people crying. Every channel I turned to that day was filled with the news. I then remember watching the footage of the plane crashing into the building. I was in my kitchen making breakfast when I saw on TV the first tower just collapse. It was almost 10 a.m. and at that moment I knew this was something serious. I remember going to school the next day and it was all everyone was talking about. Teachers were sharing stories about visiting New York and seeing the towers. I remember learning this was not the first tower attack. Now, as a high school teacher, when Sept. 11 comes back around I always try to share with my students where I was and what I was doing. It amazes me because now I am beginning to get classes that were not even born yet.

Ronnie Beathea, high school teacher Indianapolis Public Schools, Indianapolis, IN

On the Tuesday morning of September 11, 2001, I was taking a test in language arts when the Principal announced over the PA, "I need all classes to calmly evacuate the building." At that time, my classmates, our teachers and I didn't understand why, but we began to move to our parent building across the street. When we stepped outside airplanes and helicopters were flying like crazy in the air. Sirens were going off. I was scared. My classmates and I ran to our parent building as our teachers yelled, "Keep your heads low!" My school was located ten minutes from downtown Chicago, which was threatened to be the next hit. The country was in a panic to provide enough protection for the largest building The Sears Tower or Willis Tower. Once all students were centrally located, parent phone calls were made and we watched the news literally in tears until our parents came to pick us up.

Shawnta Barnes, high school English/Language Arts coach and teacher, Indianapolis Public Schools, Indianapolis, IN

When 9/11 took place, I had recently turned 18 and was a freshman majoring in Elementary education at Purdue University in West, Lafayette, IN.  Although, I had only been in college for a little over a month, I had earned the nickname, “Mom” because as my dorm mates put it, I had parent-like concern about their choices.  In hopes of shaking this name, I reluctantly attended an event the night of Monday, September 10, 2010 and we didn't get back until early the next day. This led to me sleeping through my first class. When I finally woke up, I remember how my all-female dorm was quiet absent of the country music that was typically blaring. I raced to campus to arrive to my next class, minority leadership, on time.  In class, everyone was somber.  I finally asked a classmate what was going on and he told me about the attacks.  Our professor let us speak freely and discuss the events. Classes were canceled for the rest of the day. When I decided to walk back to my dorm, I remember what I was told during Boiler Gold Rush, a Purdue orientation program, “You are adults now. Welcome to the real world!” At the time, this event made me think I'm not ready for the real world if events like this would be taking place.

Brian Dickens, elementary teacher Dayton Public Schools, Dayton, OH

I was in my 1st period advanced world literature class and we were discussing The Canterbury Tales. The teacher had just asked that we think of a theme. While we were in heavy discussions, the Principal had gotten on the intercom and asked for everyone's attention because something serious had shaken our nation. She announced there had been a hijacking and as a result two planes nosedived into the twin towers and a third plane was headed toward the Pentagon. She concluded the announcement by asking for a moment of silence and to return to teaching and learning. The teacher then dropped everything and she asked that we shift into a discussion of terrorism.

Chioma Oruh, Education Blogger, Washington DC

I spent the night at my best friend's apartment on the campus of George Washington University, which isn't far from the Pentagon. The night before was a going away party for me because I was scheduled to leave for my service with the Peace Corps on September 12, 2001. We woke up to frantic calls by our parents checking to see if we were safe, so we turned on the TV to watch the horrific scenes of the planes crashing. As soon as we also learned of the attack on the Pentagon, we quickly got in my car and headed to my family's home in Maryland. My tour in Peace Corps was postponed to October and I served for two years and three months.

Andrew Pillow, Middle School Teacher, KIPP Indy, Indianapolis, IN

I was still in middle school.  I remember that I came up from chorus class.  I had walked up the steps and people were noticeably quieter than usual.  I went to language arts and there was no work being passed out like usual.  My teacher was just standing at the front and talking to people.  She said, “Okay, let’s talk about it.”  It took a couple of people sharing before I realized what happened, but apparently everyone except the people who were in chorus already knew what happened.  I learned about the attack mid-way through a 30 minute discussion about the attack.

Now What?

It was in an elementary school where President Bush learned about the terror attack of Sept. 11. As the years pass and this day comes and goes, we often forget how that Tuesday morning, 16 years ago, changed everything in our country. As the educators above recalled that day, it is important educators talk about 9/11 in their schools with their students. There are many students who were not born when this event occurred, but there are just as many of us who weren't born during WWI and WWII and we still know about it. Sept. 11, 2001, as tragic as it was, saw the very best of this country unite as Americans.  Now more than ever, with the political landscape in our country, we must teach this history and these lessons must be taught and shared in our schools. 9/11 gives the opportunity for teachers to teach their students about citizenship. It teaches critical thinking skills and allows for discussion that engages students in subjects and allows them to create their own connections to this historic event.  I hope as we remember the lives lost during this tragedy, we also discuss the events of 9/11 in the classroom. 

We would love to hear your story about where you were that day.  Please comment below with your story.


 

Comment

David McGuire

Mr. McGuire is a middle school teacher in Indianapolis, Teach Plus Policy Fellow, and currently enrolled in a doctoral program at Indiana State University for Educational Leadership. Driven by the lack of having an African American male teacher in his classrooms growing up, David helped launched the Educate ME Foundation, which is geared towards increasing the number of African American male teachers in the classroom. A born and raised Hoosier, he is dedicated to improving educational outcomes for all students in Indianapolis. He describes his educational beliefs as a reformer grounded in the best practices of traditional public schools, where he was mentored by strong leaders. David graduated from Central State University with a degree in English and also holds an MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University.

Weekend Links (9/10/2017)

Comment

Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.

Beyond DACA: Their parents are dreamers too

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By Florentina Staigers

I sometimes feel a little uncomfortable telling people I have family members who have come here illegally to the United States. I wonder if they will judge my loved ones because they did not “wait in line” or do things the “right way.” Some of them do not speak English and they are working in jobs that might have gone to Americans, so I hesitate to reveal this information. Whether or not they came here illegally doesn’t matter to me; I still love them. They are my cousins. They are my uncles. They are the family of my El Salvadoran mother. They have come here because they want better for themselves and for their children.

I think this is what gets lost when we talk about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. We characterize the DACA beneficiaries, or the dreamers, as a particular subset of illegal immigrants who did nothing wrong because they were children when their parents brought them here to the United States.  By carving them out as special, often times there is an unspoken implication that their parents did do something wrong.

Although we are a nation of laws, we have not always been, nor are we always a nation of humane laws. Our laws have sanctioned slavery, segregation, and discrimination.  Our immigration laws too, have a long and complex history of propounding racist ideologies and constructing systems of privilege. We cannot always rely on laws when the rules of the game are made for the benefit of those making the rules. We must consider what we do when the laws themselves are the problem. 

If immigrants felt they could come legally, they would, but our immigration process is broken and it is does not meet the needs of immigrants. As of this month, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service is only now processing visas from 1994 and 1995 from places such as Mexico and the Philippines. These are for family members who wish to come here legally to be reunited with their American families: mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, and spouses, etc.  

DACA helps us move in the direction of more compassionate and humane laws.  Many people are able to support DACA and open their hearts to children and young adults who clearly did not have a choice, but I also would like them to open their hearts to those who did have a choice. Their “choice” was to take the risk of coming here illegally or watching their children go hungry, join gangs, or become victims of violence. These parents chose to do the best they could for their children.  They are dreamers too. Of course, I want to see DACA continued because I care about our youth; I will be calling and writing my legislator. I also hope that one day we can move beyond our focus on DACA to include others who did not have a real choice. So I’ll also tell my legislator to fix our broken immigration system.