NY Board of Regents Endorses DREAM Act

After endorsing anti-cheating measures and the state’s bid for a No Child Left Behind waiver, the Board of Regents turned yesterday to a different policy issue: the plight of students whose families came to the country illegally, writes Philissa Cramer at Gotham Schools.

As part of their 2012 legislative agenda, the Regents voted to support the federal Development, Relief, and Education Act for Minors. The DREAM Act, which failed in the U.S. Senate last year, would clear a path toward citizenship for the nearly 350,000 statewide high school graduates whose families are in the country illegally.

The DREAM Act would enact two major changes in current law:

It would permit certain immigrant students who have grown up in the U.S. to apply for temporary legal status and to eventually obtain permanent legal status and become eligible for U.S. citizenship if they go to college or serve in the U.S. military.

It would eliminate a federal provision that penalizes states that provide in-state tuition without regard to immigration status.

The Regents’ endorsement, however, didn’t come without question. Roger Tilles, a Regent who in the past cast one of just three “no” votes against letting test scores count more in teacher evaluations, initially questioned the wisdom of weighing in on the issue, writes Cramer.

Tilles said the political consequences of taking a stand on immigration could alienate groups that prioritize other education policies. He did not say what those groups could be.

“Right now, no matter how long they’ve lived here or how young they were when their parents brought them here, these students are far too often forced into the shadows of poverty and desperate existence,” said State Education Commissioner Dr. John B. King.

“The Dream Act opens up a pathway out of the shadows into citizenship and opportunity.  New York was built in no small part by the energy and vitality of immigrants. Helping these young New Yorkers achieve legal status doesn’t just help them – it helps build our society, our economy and the future of our state.”

“With their passage of a resolution supporting the DREAM Act, the New York State Board of Regents does New York proud.” said Chung-Wha Hong, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition.

“The Board of Regents sent an important message:  that the future of our country depends on helping all our children reach their potential, regardless of immigration status.  While other states have gone to great lengths of late to score political points at immigrant children’s expense, the New York State’s regents promote a positive and inclusive vision that should be echoed across the country. We applaud the Board on passing this resolution today and thank Chancellor Tisch and Commission King for their passionate leadership.”