News

Duke report: Despite federal law, majority of North Carolina school districts impeding enrollment for undocumented children

Despite federal laws that guarantee access to public education for undocumented children, the majority of school districts in North Carolina are impeding enrollment, a new report from the Children’s Law Clinic at Duke University finds.

According to the report, which was released Monday, about 60 percent of North Carolina districts “inhibit” enrollment in at least one way. Districts require unnecessary forms of identification, including the provision of social security numbers, or lack flexibility in how they determine proof of residency.

Such policies may stymie access for the state’s estimated 33,000 undocumented, immigrant children, the study finds.

“We hope that school districts will use this report to review their enrollment practices to ensure that they are compliant with the law and are welcoming to immigrant children,” Jane Wettach, director of the Children’s Law Clinic, said in a statement.

From the report’s conclusion:

In the United States, all children, regardless of immigration status, race, ethnic background, or native language, are guaranteed equal access to public education. However, across North Carolina, numerous public school districts have implemented policies and practices that discourage, and sometimes entirely prevent, the enrollment of immigrant children.

These measures violate the Constitution, federal law, and state law. As a result, these districts should amend their policies and practices to ensure that all students are allowed their right to enroll in public school and are welcomed there.

As the report notes, a pivotal 1982 ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court guaranteed public education for children, regardless of their immigration status. Yet, whether knowingly or unknowingly, policies ordered in many of North Carolina’s school districts may be a serious hindrance to that guarantee, requiring unnecessary documentation or specifying certain documentation, such as a certified birth certification, which may be difficult for some immigrant families to obtain.

Here’s a list of the report’s key findings here, which includes a set of recommendations that North Carolina districts provide information about enrollment requirements in easy-to-find locations and in different languages.

Other recommendations include:

  • Be flexible with regard to what evidence will be accepted to prove residency in the district.
  • Be flexible with regard to what evidence will be accepted to prove age. Districts should accept a wide variety of documents to establish a child’s date of birth and/or age, including religious documents and informal family records.
  • Refrain from requesting a social security number for a student or parent/guardian.
  • Refrain from requiring a parental photo identification as part of the enrollment process.
  • Be alert to children covered by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act and assure they are enrolled in compliance with the law. Children of migrant workers, children whose parents have been deported, and immigrant children in “doubled-up” housing should all be considered homeless children and receive the enrollment protections of the McKinney-Vento law.
  • Be flexible and helpful when caretaker adults who are not the child’s parents seek to enroll a child.

More to come.

News

Superintendent’s office: After controversial shutdown, full DPI communications resume Aug. 1

DPI Superintendent Mark Johnson

DPI Superintendent Mark Johnson

Full communications from the state’s top public school agency will resume Aug. 1, state Superintendent Mark Johnson’s office said Friday.

Policy Watch reported this month on a controversial order from Johnson that staff in the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) would halt communications over a state listserv used to dispatch instructions and support to schools and administrators across North Carolina.

Johnson said the stoppage—which offered some exceptions for legally-required public meeting notifications and other vital notices—was necessary after last month’s retirement of the department’s longtime communications chief.

Members of the State Board of Education chose a replacement last week.

Yet personnel in the department told Policy Watch the directive came at a particularly busy time for central office staff at the state and local level as they prepare for the coming school year.

Critics of the GOP superintendent suggested the mandate was a political move to stifle communications from the agency, which had long been under Democratic control until Johnson’s election last November.

Johnson denied that was the intent, describing the shutdown as “appropriate” while DPI sought a new communications director.

News

Report finds North Carolina includes some of the most and least educated cities in America

In case you missed it, here’s a fascinating story from The News & Observer on a new report that ranks North Carolina cities among the most, and least, educated in the nation.

It captures a fascinating dichotomy that falls, coincidentally, with news that the state will pursue an independent consultant to consider the varying quality of K-12 education in North Carolina’s rich and poor school districts, the latest development in the state’s long-litigated Leandro case. 

From The N&O:

Though often divided by different shades of blue, Durham and Chapel Hill were considered one recently when ranked among the 10 most-educated areas in America.

The neighboring college towns jointly ranked No. 4 in a list of the most-educated cities in the nation’s 150 largest metropolitan statistical areas, according to personal-finance website WalletHub.

North Carolina also had a ranking among the 10 least-educated: The Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton area came in 143rd.

Raleigh ranked 15th on the list, well ahead of the 71st-ranked Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia area.

For the report, analysts used data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, GreatSchools.org and U.S. News & World Report to compare “educational attainment” and “quality of educations and attainment gap.” Nine metrics were considered, including share of adults ages 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree or higher, racial education gap and quality of the public school system.

The top-10 cities were Ann Arbor, Mich.; Washington, D.C.; San Jose, Calif.; Durham-Chapel Hill; Madison, Wis.; Boston; Provo, Utah; San Francisco; Austin, Texas; and Tallahassee, Fla.

Eight of the bottom 10 were in California (Salinas, Fresno, Modesta, Bakersfield, Visalia) and Texas (Beaumont, Brownfield, McAllen).

Durham-Chapel Hill had the third-highest percentage of graduate or professional degree holders.

The Fayetteville area, which ranked 102nd overall, and Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton were among the lowest for average university quality.

Other North Carolina metro areas in the report were Asheville (ranked 62nd), Winston-Salem (101st, tied for fourth for highest average university quality), and Greensboro-High Point (106th).

News, Tracking the Cuts: The Dismantling of Our Public Schools

State Board of Education to vote on DPI budget cuts, layoffs Tuesday

Superintendent Mark Johnson (left) and Bill Cobey (right)

Details may not be public yet, but North Carolina K-12 leaders on the State Board of Education will look to pass down $3.2 million in General Assembly-ordered budget calls in a special meeting Tuesday morning.

As reported by Policy Watch last week, the legislative spending cuts for the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) are likely to impact personnel in the state agency and its services for poor and rural districts across the state.

This year’s $3.2 million cut is part of a two-year reduction for the state’s top education bureaucracy, which has been under withering scrutiny from Republican legislators in recent years. The agency had already weathered roughly $20 million in funding reductions since 2009.

“I don’t think anybody’s going to like the cuts we make, because they’ll have to be in the area of services to the districts,” State Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey said last week.

DPI Superintendent Mark Johnson, a Republican elected last year, has been silent about the cuts thus far, although Cobey said the superintendent has shared multiple proposals for dishing out the cuts.

Cobey noted the daily changes to those proposals last week.

Board members are expected to vote on the cuts Tuesday. But a DPI official, citing the confidentiality of personnel information, said details on the cuts won’t be available to the public and the media until after Tuesday’s meeting.

Watch for Policy Watch coverage of the cuts this week.

News

Reports: Traditional school enrollment down in N.C., charters and private school enrollment up

Multiple North Carolina news outlets have reported this interesting tidbit of the day: According to state data, enrollment in the state’s traditional public schools declined in 2017, while charter and private school populations surged.

It’s the latest indicator of the growing influence of school choice in the state, which has seen a rapid expansion of charters and private schools under Republican leadership in the N.C. General Assembly.

From a Friday report on WRAL:

Traditional public schools, which still educate the majority of students in North Carolina, saw enrollment fall by 5,562 students, down to 1,454,290, from 2016 to 2017.

Charter schools saw the greatest jump, with 11,437 new students in 2017, followed by home schools, with 9,579 new students, and private schools, with 2,864 more students in 2017, according to state data, which was first reported by The News & Observer.

Charter schools were created in North Carolina two decades ago and now enroll nearly 90,000 students in more than 170 schools. The state funding has grown from about $16.5 million in 1997, when there were 33 schools, to more than $444 million in 2016-17.

The news comes after roughly a decade of advances for the school choice movement in the state. State lawmakers lifted the 100-school cap on charters in 2009, and today the state counts more than 170 charters.

While advocates say charters can offer an alternative to parents, critics argue their expansion in North Carolina is part of an effort to defund the traditional public school system, which continues to teach the vast majority of North Carolina students.

Lawmakers’ launch of a controversial private school voucher program seems to also contribute to the surge. The program provides scholarships for low-income children to attend private schools, although most North Carolina private schools are religious in nature, and lack the same accountability measures imposed on traditional schools.