Herman Pan, Member of the CNMI Board of Education, says the Board is concerned with the immigration status of PSS students. He wants to explore the possibility of adding fees to immigrant students for their public education. Public Schools may look into immigration status of students .
Jeff Turbitt, teacher at Saipan Southern and popular blogger, denies his own racism but says (edit, correction: Jeff says "teaching") the Korean students in his classroom (is) are unfair to the other students because of (the students') their poor English skills.
No doubt PSS is overcrowded and underfunded. Our schools are suffering from lack of teachers, lack of materials, lack of everything. And so our students are suffering.
And so we turn to the easy scapegoat--those damn foreignors.
I am very concerned that our schools do not have enough money. I was horrified to learn from Boni Gomez that GES cancelled a kindergarten class this year for lack of funds. The evidence is overwhelming that attendance at kindergarten gives students a life-long edge in education.
And we need to do more to fix these problems.
But PSS board members and teachers pointing at immigrants as the problem and focusing attention on them is just wrong. It sends a message that stigmatization, that racism is okay. Despite Jeff's denial. Despite the American value of equality and fair treatment.
The U.S. Supreme Court addressed public school discrimination against undocumented aliens in Plyler vs. Doe, 102 S. Ct. 2382 (1982). Believe it or not, the U.S. has had its share of problems from undocumented aliens. The CNMI's problems are not new, not unique, and not unexplored.
The U.S. Supreme Court said: "Sheer incapability or lax enforcement of the laws barring entry into this country, coupled with the failure to establish an effective bar to the employment of undocumented aliens, has resulted in the creation of a substantial "shadow population" of illegal migrants--numbering in the millions--within our borders." It was speaking of the U.S., but the sentiment applies equally to the CNMI.
Our immigration service is incapable and has failed to enforce the laws we have about immigration. But when students are here and apply to go our public schools, WE DO NOT DISCRIMINATE against them, no matter how they got here, not matter how taxed we are, no matter how short-staffed, unfunded, and difficult the job.
And that means, educators in the classroom and our education officials on the Board, should NOT be looking to our foreign students as the problem that needs to be fixed, should not be saying we need to tack on additional fees for immigrants, should not be complaining about those poor-English speakers in their classrooms.
In Plyler vs. Doe, the state argued that it needed to preserve "the state's limited resources for the education of its lawful residents." But the Supreme Court held that undocumented alien students within the states borders are entitled to the same free, appropriate public education that "lawful residents" enjoy. That's due process and equality.
And that's an American value.
Why? Because education is vitally important. Because we need our teachers to be nice to our kids. We need our kids to learn to live in a multi-cultural society without always jumping down the throats of those who are different. We need to own our problems and stop blaming others, especially young kids in public schools.
Legally, PSS is bound to educate students here, no matter how they got here. And singling out the increase in Korean students only teaches intolerance and racism. And that's not the lesson our PSS should be sending to our kids.
What's worse than the economic woes we're facing right now? Which is worse: Poverty, or racism and ignorance? Well, my vote isn't for poverty.
I'm disgusted with Herman Pan and Jeff for adding to the intolerance and stupidity level of the CNMI. Herman could have simply called his knowledgeable legal counsel to find out that he's being ignorant, and prejudiced. Jeff could have used his smarts to do a little checking first.
And now Korean students will be headed into their classrooms with teachers like Jeff. How fair do you think any Korean student in Jeff's class will be treated now? How fair will it feel to them? How fair will they be treated by other teachers who are less tolerant than Jeff but quieter?
It's never smart, fair, or ethical to say students of a race or ethnicity are a problem in the schools. Not by teachers. Not by Board members. Not by Americans.