Commissioner's request for student status fails to pass | Politics
CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV)- A motion that would have request to require Charlotte Mecklenburg School leaders to gather information about the legal status of students failed to pass at the county board of commissioners meeting Tuesday night.
The motion, brought forth by Commissioner Bill James and supported by two others, failed 5 to 3.
James said he wants to know the exact number of students in K-through-12 who are illegal immigrants. He also wants to know how much money it is costing Mecklenburg County to educate such students.
James asked his fellow commissioners to "imagine 10 thousand illegal children in Mecklenburg County and you multiply that across America and you can imagine the financial hemorrhage that's occurring."
It was supported by James, Jim Pendergraph and Karen Bentley.
Those against the proposal like Hector Vaca, with Action North Carolina, said it was nothing more than a political stunt.
"All they're doing is political posturing to their conservative base in an election year," he said. "We're here to speak for those who can't speak for themselves.
But Commissioner Jim Pendergraph, who also supported the measure, disagreed.
"This isn't about hate," he insisted. This is about finding the facts and if you think there is something wrong with getting the facts, I have a problem with that."
James said if Mecklenburg County could identify which countries students who are illegal immigrants are coming from, the county could send a bill to those respective countries and ask for payment for educating the students.
The legislation referenced the Supreme Court case of Plyer V Doe, which prohibits local school districts from refusing illegal immigrants from admission to K-12 public schools.
The ruling doesn't prohibit the school district or the county, according to the legislation, from "estimating or obtaining immigration information and quantifying the impact that illegals attending CMS have on the Mecklenburg County taxpayer."
Tuesday afternoon, the CMS Board of Education responded. The following is a statement from Ericka Ellis-Stewart, Chair of the Board:
"As chair of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, I am disturbed by a recent proposal put forward on the commission agenda by Commissioners James, Pendergraph and Bentley for discussion at the commission's meeting Aug. 14.
The proposal requests that Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools "quantify the financial impact on the Mecklenburg County Budget of illegal immigrants who attend CMS and request CMS to obtain documentation about students [sic] immigration status beginning with the start of the new school year in 2012."
It was disappointing to learn about this proposal from the news media, rather than from the commission directly. We want to work collaboratively with the Board of County Commissioners. We didn't know about this proposal and thus were excluded from the discussion of something that will affect our district.
Our concerns with the proposal itself are threefold:
- First, the county commission is not established under law or custom as an oversight panel for the Board of Education.
- Second, what the proposal asks CMS to do is illegal. We are barred by federal law from inquiring about the citizenship or residency status of our students.
- Third, it singles out the public schools but no county agency. If the intent of this proposal is to determine financial impact on the county budget, then many parts of county government should be asked to produce documentation of this type. Illegal immigration affects many parts of government, not only schools. Asking only CMS for this information will not correctly capture the financial impact.
We look forward to continuing our collaborative partnership with the county and working together to improve education for all students in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. It is in that collaborative spirit that we are sharing our concerns about this proposal."
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