Community engagement was one of the aspects of the Promise Neighborhood grant written back in 2012. One of the Mission Promise Neighborhood’s answers to that piece of family success was the creation of a parent leadership group, known as the Mission Parent Council. This group is spearheaded by Laura Olivas.

Parent engagement
Olivas has been working with parents to strengthen their advocacy efforts for themselves and their children — and the Mission community at large. This has led to parents deciding which topics matter to them and identifying the support they need to champion those causes. A recent subject of importance was determined to be Prop N, the Immigrant Parent Right to Vote measure on the San Francisco ballot this Nov. 8.

It’s a startling fact: one-third of San Francisco parents are denied a say in their child’s education simply because they are non-citizens. Prop N would allow such parents to vote on educational matters, specifically in elections for the Board of Education.

To tell their stories, eight Mission parents headed to a San Francisco Board of Education meeting on Tuesday night, where a vote of support was to be taken on the measure. Via heartfelt and powerful explanations of why the Board should vote in favor of Prop N, these parents one by one stepped forward and spoke their truth. This was the first time many had done so in public.

The good news is that there was a unanimous vote of the School Board in favor of Prop N.

The other exciting news is that these parents saw the power of having their voices heard — a message they will share in the community.

Explains Olivas, “An important piece of the Mission Promise Neighborhood’s work is the creation of a college-going culture at home, so I was thrilled to see these parents valiantly taking to the podium and asking for support, as a way to play a larger role in their children’s education. This was a step in the right direction, and I can see that this is going to create something bigger. A movement has started.”

The resolution read by the School Board
Below is the text read Tuesday night. The authors were Board commissioners Matt Haney, Shamann Walton and Sandra Lee Fewer.

SUBJECT: Resolution In Support of Proposition N, Non-Citizen Voting in School Board Elections

WHEREAS: About 283,000 immigrants live in San Francisco — accounting for 35 percent of the population; and

WHEREAS: 54 percent of children in San Francisco have at least one immigrant parent, and 34 percent of households are headed by an immigrant; and

WHEREAS:  27.3 percent (16,070) of all SFUSD students are designated as English Language Learners, one indication of the size of the immigrant population in San Francisco public schools; and

WHEREAS: From 1776 until 1926 in 40 states and federal territories, residents who weren’t citizens could vote in local, state and sometimes federal elections; and

WHEREAS: There is a precedent of municipalities across the country that have passed legislation enfranchising non-citizens, which includes six Maryland municipalities, Chicago, Illinois, Cambridge and Amherst, Mass. (although state enabling legislation is required for implementation); and

WHEREAS: Non-citizen voting is common practice in other nations, with 23 countries allowing some form of non-citizen voting, including Belize, Canada, Denmark, Spain and the United Kingdom; and

WHEREAS: Immigrants who want to become citizens face enormous bureaucratic challenges, waiting an average of 10 years to go through the process to become citizens; and

WHEREAS: This waiting time for many non-citizen parents lasts the duration of their children’s tenure in public schools; and

WHEREAS: Non-citizen parents’ children, many of whom themselves are citizens, benefit with more participation in the democratic process; and

WHEREAS: Non-citizens suffer social and economic inequities, in part, because policymakers can ignore their interests; and

WHEREAS: Non-citizen residents contribute to the economic vitality of San Francisco, by paying taxes, purchasing goods and services, and working in every sector of the economy; and

WHEREAS: Whereas non-citizen residents contribute to the social and cultural vitality of San Francisco by sending their children to schools, developing and participating in the life of their communities through religious and community groups; and

WHEREAS: Non-citizens are not eligible to register to vote, although existing San Francisco residents who are 18 years of age or older, United States citizens and not in prison or on parole for a felony conviction are eligible to register to vote in San Francisco elections, including elections for the Board of Education of the SFUSD; and

WHEREAS: The San Francisco Board of Supervisors (10-1) support Supervisor Mar’s proposal to amend the Charter of the City and County of San Francisco to authorize San Francisco residents who are not United States citizens but who are the parents, legal guardians or caregivers of a child residing in San Francisco to vote in elections for the Board of Education; and

WHEREAS: The voting rights measure, Proposition N, is on the Nov. 8, 2016, ballot as an amendment to the City and County of San Francisco’s charter, and, if passed, the provision authorizing non-citizen voting in Board of Education elections would “sunset’ on Dec. 31, 2022, or the Dec. 31 immediately following the third School Board election conducted under the rules adopted in the Charter amendment, whichever is later; and

WHEREAS: Community-based organizations supporting this measure include Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA), Mission Parent Council, Faith in Action, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), CARECEN, Chinese for Affirmative Action, Mission Neighborhood Centers, Coleman Advocates, Laborers Local 261, La Raza Centro Legal; therefore be it

RESOLVED: The San Francisco Board of Education supports the November 2016 charter amendment to authorize San Francisco residents who are legal voting age and who are the parents, legal guardians, or caregivers for children in the SFUSD to vote in elections for the Board of Education, regardless of whether the resident is a U.S. citizen; and be it further

RESOLVED: The Board of Education is interested in the outcome of any constitutional debates related to citizenship and voting and wishes to be informed of the progress of such actions; and be it further

RESOLVED: The Board of Education is committed to maintaining and enhancing a high level of participation in School Board elections by all eligible voters and opposes any implementation of Prop N that would separate the School Board election from regular ballots and regular elections and therefore calls on the Board of Supervisors and the Department of Elections to implement Prop N, should it pass in November, without removing School Board elections from regular general elections or from regular ballots, and be it further

RESOLVED: If Prop N is passed by the voters and found to be constitutional, the Board of Education urges the Board of Supervisors to consider measures that would allow non-citizen residents of San Francisco to vote in all local elections.

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About Mission Promise Neighborhood

The Mission Promise Neighborhood is a citywide community partnership that was created to support kids and families living, working and attending school in the Mission District. It brings together schools, colleges, community organizations and community leaders to help kids graduate and families achieve financial stability.

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Photo credit: Noris Chavarría, MEDA

Imagine having no say in your child’s education. Well, that’s the unfortunate case for the one-third of San Francisco parents who are non-citizens.

San Francisco has long been a city of immigrants. While they come from different places, the desire for a better life for one’s children is a common thread of the immigrant experience.

Prop N, on the ballot this Nov. 8, seeks to address the inequity of parents not being allowed to vote on educational matters. Specifically, the Immigrant Parent Right to Vote measure authorizes 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, regardless of whether the resident is a United States citizen.

Legal precedent
“This isn’t a novel idea. Over the past three decades, municipalities in Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts and New York have passed laws affording immigrants the right to vote. It’s about fairness,” states MEDA Policy Manager Gabriel Medina. MEDA is the lead agency of the Mission Promise Neighborhood.

Such laws have legal backing: the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that citizenship is not required to vote. Interestingly, on April 4 of this year, a unanimous Supreme Court ruled that undocumented immigrants and other noncitizens could be counted when states draw their legislative districts, nullifying a challenge by residents of Texas who claimed that their own voting power was being weakened. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the court, even cited schooling as a factor for the decision when she wrote: “Nonvoters have an important stake in many policy debates — children, their parents, even their grandparents, for example, have a stake in a strong public-education system …”

In California, the state constitution protects the right of citizens to vote, but does not exclude immigrants from voting. The California constitution explicitly authorizes Charter cities, such as San Francisco, to provide for the manner of electing school board members.

Wide support for Prop N
On a local level, Prop N has the support of 10 of the 11 members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. They are joined by the seven current San Francisco Board of Education commissioners, who as individuals unanimously favor passage of this measure. The Board of Education will be voting to endorse this measure on Tuesday, Sept. 6, at 6 p.m. in the Irving G. Breyer Board Meeting Room, 555 Franklin Street, First Floor, so community presence is requested to show support for Prop N.

This measure was made possible by the work of Supervisor Eric Mar, with support from Assemblymember David Chiu.

Community-based organizations joining MEDA in support of this measure include Mission Parent Council, Faith in Action, ACCE, CARECEN, Chinese for Affirmative Action, Mission Neighborhood Centers, Coleman Advocates, Laborers Local 261, La Raza Centro Legal and the San Francisco Latino Democratic Club.

Involvement within the immigrant community is also occurring. The Mission Promise Neighborhood works to foster advocacy by parents. This has been occurring via the Mission Parent Council, with eight parents of students in Mission Promise Neighborhood schools being spokespersons for Prop N.

Explains Mission Promise Neighborhood Leadership Program Manager Laura Olivas, “This started with a journey to City Hall, with the Mission Parent Council asking City officials to support this measure. The Mission Parent Council also took to the podium at this summer’s Education Forum 2016, entreating community members to get involved and spread the word so that Prop N will pass in November. These parent advocates stressed the importance of having a voice — a message that was well received by the crowd of hundreds at this year’s Education Forum.”

Two-generation approach
Parents being involved in their child’s education is vital. A two-generation approach is a tenet of the model of the Mission Promise Neighborhood’s work.

According to a 2002 report entitled “A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family and Community Connections on Student Achievement” from Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, parental involvement translates to students earning higher grades and test scores, enrolling in higher-level programs, regularly attending school, having better social skills, graduating and continuing on to college. Not a surprise.

The report also showcased that “when schools build partnerships with families that respond to their concerns and honor their contributions, they are successful in sustaining connections that are aimed at improving student achievement.”

For the sake of fairness and the betterment of lives of students, all San Franciscans are urged to vote “Yes” on Prop N this Nov. 8.

Please let all parents’ voices be heard.

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For further information, please contact MEDA Policy Manager Gabriel Medina: (415) 690-6992; gmedina@medasf.org.

____________________________________________________________

About Mission Promise Neighborhood
The Mission Promise Neighborhood is a citywide community partnership that was created to support kids and families living, working and attending school in the Mission District. It brings together schools, colleges, community organizations and community leaders to help kids graduate and families achieve financial stability.

Read More

Making a little over $35,000 doesn’t go very far in San Francisco, especially with housing costs through the roof. Imagine that meager pay level when you have already made an investment in post-secondary education.

Such is the case for the City’s 4,415 Early Childhood Education (ECE) professionals, who average $16.85 an hour and with 82 percent having attended college (one-third having achieved a Bachelor’s degree). ECE has the dubious distinction of affording graduates the lowest lifetime earnings of any college major.

This analysis comes from the San Francisco Child Care Planning and Advisory Council (CPAC). The CPAC is the state-mandated Local Planning Council (LPC), established to provide a forum for the identification of local priorities for child care and early education, and the development of policies to meet these needs. One of CPAC’s priorities for 2016 is advocating for increasing early care and educator pay to ensure a diverse and skilled workforce. 

To let people know of this situation, folks today took to the streets around San Francisco’s City Hall in the “Sixth Annual Walk Around the Block.” There were parents and children. Community members. Plus plenty of early childhood educators showcasing homemade signs demanding fairness for their profession. 

To support this advocacy, a contingent from Mission Promise Neighborhood took part in today’s event, with promotoras (community outreach workers) and parents from the Community Advisory Council part of the march. Mission Promise Neighborhood parents want their children to have the best early education possible, and for their children to graduate from college. Parents know that early childhood educators are critical to achieving this goal and that is why they showed up to support their teachers. Pay equity will help to attract and retain high-quality early childhood educators, and will allow them to stay in the City. Lourdes Dobarganes, promotora and mother of four, when asked why she is advocating for teachers stated, “¡Nuestros niños merecen maestros excelentes con sueldo digno!” (“Our children deserve excellent teachers that get paid fair wages!”)

“Birth to five is a critical stage of development, children deserve a high-quality early education, and this means that we need to invest in our early childhood workforce,“ explains Mission Promise Neighborhood Early Learning Manager Liz Cortez. Some cities have already been at the vanguard of overcoming this income disparity: New York City and Seattle now pay early childhood educators on par with K-12 educators.

In New York’s case, Mayor de Blasio two years ago announced steps to help community-based organizations attract and retain high-quality early childhood educators, as part of the historic expansion of full-day Pre-K programs for every child in the city.

Looking to replicate this model in equally pricey San Francisco, the hundreds who took to the streets today put forth a collective message that early childhood educators’ pay should be equal to that of K-12 educators.

Mission Promise Neighborhood is a collective of partners, many of them providing early care and education services to families with young children. These organizations experience challenges with attracting high quality early childhood educators because of the low wages and the high cost of living in San Francisco. High turnover is detrimental to young children who thrive on good relationships with their caregivers and teachers. Ada Alvarado, a former preschool teacher, left the early education field for many reasons, the principal reason being the low pay. She states, “There is a large disparity between the salary of early learning teachers and the cost of living in San Francisco. As a preschool teacher with a college degree and experience in the early learning field, I struggled to make ends meet with a preschool teacher salary. I invested so much in my profession and often asked myself, ‘Who was investing in me’?”

Children Services Division Director Dolores Terrazas of Mission Neighborhood Centers, a Mission Promise Neighborhood  partner, knows the need in the community. Terrazas states, “A quality experience in early education is directly linked to the investment in the people that provide this service; attracting, compensating and retaining teachers is paramount to a successful early education experience.”

These thoughts are echoed by Division Director Yohana Quiroz of Felton Institute Children, Youth and Family Services, also an MPN partner,  “Wage disparity for ECE teachers at Felton and across San Francisco is huge. Our teachers have dedicated their lives to serving our youngest learners and in making a difference in their school readiness and life trajectory.” Quiroz continues, “Despite being responsible for such a critical time in young children’s lives, the wage disparity between an ECE teacher and a K-12 educator is huge. These low wages make it difficult for them to afford living in San Francisco. Many actually qualify for public benefits.”

The cost of early care and education is increasingly high. An April 12 Wall Street Journal article titled, “States Where Day Care Costs More than College,” reported: ”In nearly half the country, it’s now more expensive to educate a 4-year-old in preschool than an 18-year-old in college, a finding that illustrates the rising burden many families face affording care for children.” Yet despite such increased costs, the pay for early childhood educators still lags.

It is time to close the wage gap between early childhood educators and K-12 educators.

To ensure that San Francisco elected officials and policymakers heard this message, Mission Promise Neighborhood promotoras and parents, along with their children, participated in various legislative visits after the march. They introduced themselves and the work of Mission Promise Neighborhood, plus spoke about the need to support early childhood educators. MPN families are committed to advocating for all young children in the Mission District.

____________________________________________________________

About Mission Promise Neighborhood
The Mission Promise Neighborhood is a citywide community partnership that was created to support kids and families living, working and attending school in the Mission District. It brings together schools, colleges, community organizations and community leaders to help kids graduate and families achieve financial stability.

Read More

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