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.

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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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