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Trump Ends Schooling for Detained Immigrant Kids

About 13,200 minors held in detention facilities will have funding for their educational services, recreational programs and legal aid cut by the federal government.

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Tornillo, Texas youth detention center, before its closure. (Photo: U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services)

“Learning Curves” is a weekly roundup of news items, profiles and dish about the intersection of education and inequality. Send tips, feedback and announcements of upcoming events to  braden@capitalandmain.com, @BillRaden.


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THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION is abruptly cutting funding for educational services for detained undocumented children, as well as recreational programs and legal aid. The decision will impact roughly 13,200 minors currently being held in licensed shelters under contract with the federal government. The cuts, which have been widely decried by child welfare advocates, may also be a violation of federal law. Under the Flores agreement, the government is required to provide immigrant minors in its custody with educational services “in a structured classroom setting, Monday through Friday,” and recreational activities “which shall include daily outdoor activity, weather permitting.”

According to the Washington Post, which first reported the story, the rationale for the cuts is financial. The unprecedented number of migrant children in government custody has created tremendous budgetary strains. Meanwhile, federal officials say it may take up to two years to reunite immigrant children who have been separated from their families.

TEACHERS OR CHARTERS? That, according to veteran education writer Jeff Bryant, is the choice that could face Democratic office seekers — including presidential candidates in 2020. The reason, according to Bryant in a piece that first appeared in Truthdig, is the growing influence on state governments of charter schools. “What,” asks Bryant, “will happen when a consensus issue like teacher salary increases comes into conflict with a lightning rod issue like charter schools?” He says Florida is a recent case in point. There, Palm Beach County overwhelmingly voted last November to increase salaries for teachers in traditional public schools and to improve campus security. The Republican-dominated state government, however, soon created a law that requires all school districts to share newly raised funds with charter schools. Bryant suggests it’s entirely possible that Democrats seeking the White House will find themselves calling for raising public school teacher salaries — while GOP-run states pass laws forcing some of the money earmarked for those salaries to be passed on to charters.

SPEAKING OF ELECTIONS AND CHARTER SCHOOLS, a recent Brown University study claims that whenever charter enrollment increases, participation in local school board races declines. The analysis “indicates that the enrollment of district students in charter schools reduced the number of votes cast in district school board contests and, correspondingly, reduced turnout in the odd-year elections in which those contests are held. This impact is concentrated in districts that serve low-achieving, impoverished, and minority students.” (Those words may have a familiar ring in Los Angeles — see below.) “A one percentage point increase in charter school enrollment was linked to a decline in votes cast in elections for school board seats of about 2.5 to four percent,” summarized Education Week.

More than 54 PERCENT of the 304,300 Los Angeles voters who cast ballots Tuesday on Measure EE shot down its attempt to raise a 12-year parcel tax for the L.A. Unified School District. Opposed by an array of business and anti-tax interests, EE came nowhere near winning a simple majority, let alone the two-thirds super-majority it needed to pass. Measure backers Mayor Eric Garcetti, city schools superintendent Austin Beutner and United Teachers L.A. all put the best, “We’ll be back” face on the debacle, but questions were immediately asked about the timing of the election — held barely a month after a local school board race. Angelenos are famously fickle about voting in off-year elections to begin with, but an off-off-year election seemed especially fraught, considering that in some parts of the county Measure EE was the only item on the ballot. Doubly worrisome for education advocates must be the implication that, if ultra-blue L.A. could not get a majority to vote for a pro-schools measure, what does that portend for next year’s statewide campaign to get California voters to reform part of Proposition 13? At least that vote falls on a momentous presidential-election year.


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