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.
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.
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.