Editorial note: With the following post by GLIDE’s Theresa Calderon we continue a weekly series of opinion pieces in the run-up to Election Day November 8, discussing propositions on the ballot of particular importance to our communities. Proposition N, or the Immigrant Parent Right to Vote measure, allows San Francisco residents who are the parents, legal guardians or caregivers for children in the San Francisco Unified School District to vote in elections for the Board of Education without regard to their citizenship status.
Immigration is an important part of US history, and the waves of immigrants that have come over hundreds of years have all helped build this country. Yet, right now, non-citizen parents are shut out of basic decision-making about their children’s futures.
Although it is often said that immigrants come chasing the American Dream, I believe migration is most often fueled by the very basic need to survive. I also believe, however, that all immigrant groups, past and present, wholeheartedly want the American Dream for their children. They want their children to receive a good education and to gain, thereby, the opportunity to fulfill their dreams. In this way, immigrant parents are no different than other parents. Shouldn’t they have a say in who is elected to make very important decisions regarding their children’s education, and therefore, their futures?
School boards were created to advocate for the needs of children attending their schools, and parent engagement in the voting process is key to electing officials who understand the needs of the community they’ve been elected to serve. Proposition N would give this opportunity to parents.
The school board sets what children should know at every grade level, and oversees the school budget and its facilities. They are elected officials who will directly affect the future of students and their readiness for higher education. Parents, regardless of citizenship, should be able to elect school board officials who will have their children’s best interest in mind.
There are numerous examples from recent history of the impact of school boards on education and broader social issues. School boards haven’t always been on the right side of history. Brown v. Board of Education, which desegregated schools in the South, was only 62 years ago And until 1947, when Mendez v. Westminster deemed it unconstitutional, California had segregated schools for Mexican and Mexican-American children. The determining factor in what school a Mexican child or child of Latin decent would attend was the lightness of their skin. More recently, a North Carolina school board has been in the news for fighting against a transgendered child’s ability to use the boy’s bathroom.
This isn’t to say that school boards are bad, but to show the importance of community representation in their decision-making. Without the input of all parents, there is greater risk that school boards won’t make decisions in the best interest of all students.
This is why I support Proposition N, which gives non-citizens the right to vote for their local school board officials. It’s in everyone’s best interest that all children in the U.S. receive a good education, and that means all parents need to have a voice in shaping the board responsible for overseeing it.
Theresa Calderon is Family Resource Coordinator at GLIDE’s Janice Mirikitani Family, Youth and Childcare Center.