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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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.

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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.

Read More

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