The Senate Has Voted to Rollback Civil Rights Protections for America’s Children

When the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed into law last year, there was bipartisan support for strong systems that would hold schools responsible for the success of each child. However, yesterday the Senate stripped these provisions from the law on a narrow vote of 50-49. As ESSA is a civil rights law, it’s critical that the nation’s signature education policy include protections for our nation’s underserved communities. The protections the Senate voted down would have helped ensure that states are developing accountability systems that serve all of America’s children.

“Today’s repeal undermines important civil rights protections under ESSA that NCLR and other civil rights groups have worked so hard to secure for Latino students, English learners, and other underserved children,” said NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía.

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The Role of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act in Preparing New Citizens

Labor Day Banner Photo 5_woman airplane maintenance

In 2014, Congress enacted the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) to modernize adult education and workforce training. For many years, these two areas had been treated separately in federal policymaking and adults with limited English proficiency were frequently stuck in English classes for years before they could advance to developing any skills. Recognizing this disconnect, WIOA borrowed models from many community groups, including NCLR Affiliates, that combined English as a second language and job training into one program. However, many immigrants want to learn English for reasons other than to find a job, including like becoming a U.S. citizen. Both WIOA and proposed rules from the Department of Education—the agency responsible for regulating adult learning programs—make clear that funding must support workforce outcomes and cannot be used for other adult learning needs.

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Opting Out Is Not an Option for Me

By Helia Castellon, NCLR Blog guest contributor


Castellon w/her husband and three daughters.

Every day I send my three daughters to school with the confidence that they are learning. And every day when I ask them about what they learned in school, I, like so many other parents, will more likely than not get the same response: “Nothing.”

“Really?” I’ll reply. “After seven hours in school, you learned nothing?”

Occasionally I’ll hear about some new project, and I’ll definitely hear about the homework assigned two weeks prior the day before it is due. But what my children don’t tell me in their own words, I can definitely hear in their changed vocabulary, in the new topics they want to explore at the bookstore, or even the unexpected references they make or questions they ask when watching a movie or listening to conversations around them. So I know they are learning “something” even though they tell me they are learning “nothing.”

Education is the most important thing I can provide for my three daughters. But it is not enough for me to know that they are learning; I need to know that they are achieving.

As a parent, I’ve heard about the many changes taking place in education. What hasn’t changed, however, is the importance and the necessity of tests. No one likes them—they cause sleepless nights, and on occasion they might even make my girls cry. But one thing I’ve realized as a parent is that the tests my children take allow me to know how my girls are doing and think about what more I can do as a parent to help them succeed. When I see in black and white that my nine-year-old is not doing so well in reading, then that’s a signal for me to encourage her to summarize what she read and check her understanding. If my 15-year-old is having trouble mastering algebraic equations, then that’s my signal to advise her on how she can approach her teacher for extra help, or take that next step and schedule a parent-teacher conference.

What I’ve learned over the years is that assessments benefit me just as much as I assume they benefit my daughters’ teachers. They keep me informed about my children’s academic progress in a more formal way that then allow me to have a discussion with their teachers on concrete facts and not on vague anecdotes. By having this information I can be a partner with my children’s teachers, all of us intervening in ways that are purposeful and within our capacity as parents and educators.

My daughters have spent countless nights preparing themselves to be the best students they can so that they can become the next generation of engineers, doctors, and whatever else they think of becoming. It is my right as a parent to make sure that they are learning, that their outcomes are measured, and their progress is accounted for. Opting out is not an option for me because without this knowledge I will not know where to push, where to support, or where I need to advocate on their behalf. Yearly assessments allow me to do just that.

Helia Castellon is an adjunct instructor for the Los Angeles Community College District. She is the mother of three school-aged children and lives in Fontana, Calif.

And Justice For All: 21st Century Policing

by Danny Turkel, Digital Coordinator, NCLR

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

On December 18, 2014, President Obama signed an executive order to create the Task Force on 21st Century Policing, a committee composed of law enforcement, academics, and community organizers. The task force’s mission was to “examine, among other issues, how to strengthen public trust and foster strong relationships between local law enforcement and the communities that they protect, while also promoting effective crime reduction.” Their final report, issued last May, consists of six pillars: Building Trust and Legitimacy, Policy and Oversight, Technology and Social Media, Community Policing and Crime Reduction, Training and Education, and Officer Wellness and Safety. Within these pillars, the report offers 59 recommendations and close to one hundred specific action items in order to achieve the task force’s goals.

Jose Lopez, who currently serves as Director of Organizing for Make the Road New York, a New York City–based immigrant justice organization, was chosen to serve on the panel that authored the report. Lopez agrees that there are larger issues at play than just poorly trained, trigger-happy police officers. He views policing in a historical context, commonly used for “racialized social control.”

“When you think of it in that way, you see it as housing, you see it in the denial of voting, and you see it as the denial of higher education, no access to financial aid,” said Lopez. “It’s interesting that today it is still completely legal to discriminate against criminals in the way that it was once legal to discriminate against African Americans in the Jim Crow South.”

Lopez made it clear that when we talk about policing, however we frame it, we need to be moving away from discrimination. “When I think about 21st-century policing, I think about it from the lens of the young people whom I work with on a daily basis; what do they experience, and how does policing impact them and their communities?”

Alonzo Dario tests the patience of Phoenix Police Officer Young during the “Day of Action” march. (Cop_Youngster by Dan Shouse, licensed under CC BY-NC)

For Latino communities, Lopez highlights the need to disentangle local law enforcement with immigration enforcement. While this is not the sole cause of friction between police and Latinos, it would certainly go a long way to rebuilding the trust and confidence Latinos have in law enforcement.

“If immigrant communities only see police as the gateway to deportation, there will absolutely never be any trust there or any push from the immigrant community to want to come forward, for example, to report a crime that they may have witnessed,” said Lopez. By putting police officers on the front lines of America’s immigration battle, public confidence in law enforcement is eroded, especially for Latinos.

He also describes problems stemming from the expansion of the National Crime and Information Center (NCIC), an FBI database originally created in 1967 to track criminals across jurisdictions. However, as Lopez describes, “In 2002, an immigrant violator database was added to the NCIC and so what the database now does is it tells police officers if the individual who’s stopped has an outstanding removal order, failed to complete post–September 11 registration requirements, or was previously deported on a felony.”

According to Lopez, if any of anything comes up as a hit on the database, local law enforcement is then supposed to contact U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. A study by the Migration Policy Institute found that the NCIC database has a national average error rate of 42% when attempting to determine someone’s immigration status; Shelby County, Tennessee, is the worst offender with a 98% error rate.

Another item that Lopez talked about was getting police officers out of local schools. “Examining New York City during the 2013–2014 school year [the latest data available], there were 775 arrests and summons, almost four per day, by the NYPD’s School Safety Division. Black and Latino students account for 60% of students but made up 94.3% of all students who were arrested” said Lopez. “The impact on Latino students is real. Our students are two times likelier to be suspended than White students and one suspension doubles the likelihood of dropping out. Students who drop out are more than eight times as likely to end up in the criminal justice system. We have to move away from making schools feel and act like prisons.”

Photo courtesy of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement/Public Domain

One major improvement that could be made in our communities, says Lopez, is the creation of crisis intervention teams, groups made up of community members, mental health experts, and law enforcement officials, which can respond to emergencies and provide holistic, community-based solutions to situations that may be exacerbated by regular police protocols.

Even as he’s listing the names and circumstances of the countless victims of police violence, Lopez speaks with an energetic optimism and clarity that hints at why he was qualified to sit on the president’s panel. Despite the difficulties in implementing nationwide policing standards, Mr. Lopez is cautiously hopeful about the future.

“It’s one of those things that can quickly go south if you don’t have the right people on the team and who respond to these things in a timely fashion. We have to get it right.”