FROM OUR PRINTED 2021 EDITION
by Atty. Robert Snider
Boston Broadside Columnist
Former Suffolk County
Assistant District Attorney
When Framingham was a town, town meeting voted an annual line-item budget. There was a committee of town meeting for each department, including for schools which consumed 62% of the budget. The School Committee met with a representative of the School Department, reviewed each item in its budget and made a recommendation to town meeting.
I was a member the School Committee during the Obama administration after unaccompanied alien children (UAC) were first reported on the border.
In a committee meeting after the first arrival of the UAC, the assistant superintendent of the School Department, who presented the department’s budget requests, offhandedly interjected that the department had underestimated the number of kindergarteners and that an additional $250,000 was needed for two additional kindergarten classes. Asked why the department’s usually reliable estimating process was so far off, he did not answer the question. His reply was revealing. He responded that the town was required by federal law to admit every child living in the district.
The inference that the two kindergarten classes were composed of some of the UAC was obvious but not admitted. The inference was confirmed by the written presentation of the department for increased funding when it pointed out the substantial costs of educating the large percentage of students who did not speak English. Later in the year, I spoke with a teacher who told me that the UAC children lacked not only English, but basic knowledge of modern American culture. Thus, they required so much teacher attention that there was little time left for other students.
Town meeting passed the school budget without knowing how much the presence of the UAC cost in that year and in every year thereafter. So far as I can tell, the same occurred in thousands of school districts in every year since and will happen this year and into the future, unless there is a requirement for transparency so that the cost of an open border and in lost education is disclosed.
In order to appreciate the problem, begin by analyzing the Supreme Court case of Plyler vs. Texas, 457 U.S. 202 (1982), decided by a 5 to 4 vote. A Texas statute authorized local school districts to deny enrollment to children who were not “legally admitted” into the U.S. The majority ruled that the UAC were “persons” who were located in Texas and the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution forbids the states from denying “to any person within its jurisdiction” equal protection of the law.
The majority admitted that there is no constitutional right to an education, but essentially justified its decision by dismissing the financial cost of such education as not being significant, that providing education to UAC would not constitute a special burden and that the ability to provide high-quality education in Texas would not be affected. Further, the majority stated that a good education is necessary to earn a living.
Writing in dissent, Chief Justice Warren pointed out the obvious: that the majority had hijacked the legislative function. Warren admitted that aliens are entitled to equal protection when in the U.S., but that does not end the constitutional analysis. The Equal Protection Clause does not mandate identical treatment of aliens and citizens.
The issue was, “whether, for purposes of allocating its finite resources, a state has a legitimate reason to differentiate between persons who are lawfully within the state and those who are unlawfully there.” A huge percentage of citizens unburdened by a law degree will answer that issue correctly.
Based on that one vote case, the power of the federal government compels costs and social policies on all local school districts. For instance, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education sent a “Dear Colleague” letter dated May 8th, 2014 to all local school districts reminding them that not only are they required to provide equal access to public education at the elementary and secondary levels, but are forbidden to have enrollment practices that may “chill” enrollment based on immigration status. Forbidden practices include asking for documents of citizenship, including a Social Security number or birth certificate.
The lack of a birth certificate is a real concern. When the mayor of Lynn complained that some of the illegal immigrants enrolled in school had “more wrinkles” than she did, her concerns were dismissed. One student was revealed to be 35. When the flood of young males now entering the U.S. are included in the school population, together with the campaign to weaken or cut out school resource officers, the effect on quality education and security is predictable.
Friends, it is time to take a long, slow look at the statue of the Minuteman on your municipal common, (that is, if the barbarians have not trashed it) and ask what he would do if he were living today. Show up for elementary and secondary students at all relevant hearings and ask questions. ♦