My current situation will result in a split personality, I am sure! That is a lie because the split has already occurred!
I live in a relatively little border town. I teach in a middle school one city to the west of where I reside. First, I need to vehemently state that I love my job, and I love my neighborhood. However, love may not have a place in issues of the law and where I find myself this lovely August morning.
I have twin grandchildren who will start kindergarten Tuesday morning. My youngest two children, both teenagers, started public school yesterday. The relevance of these dates is only to state that my grandchildren will NOT be attending the same public school system as their aunt and uncle. They are now enrolled in a private charter school. I say “now” because the entire process of registering them was far too extensive and emotionally traumatizing for their young mother.
The district office for the public school system is one block from our home, and after five lengthy trips there, my daughter gave up and went looking/hoping for another school for her twins to attended this year.
She attempted to enroll the twins starting in early July and was faced with extensive paperwork because she shares the same residence as me. Remember I have children who have attended this school system for four years now. She completed the required paperwork for a shared residency, and when she returned it, they wanted utility bills and receipts showing them paid in full? I have never experienced this in my twenty-four years of having students enrolled in public schools! She also noticed that office workers did not request this information from the Spanish-speaking parents in the office. The district we live in has five public elementary schools and three private elementary schools. Please remember this is a small border community with about 16,000 residents, most of whom are retired. The office worker finally told my daughter was that one elementary school had room for the twins, and it almost full. This statement caused her to look into charter school options. As an educator, I know the district does not have enough paraprofessionals for each class; therefore, the twins could end up in a classroom of almost thirty students with one teacher. We knew the charter school has small class sizes and a paraprofessional for each class, so we are confident we made the right decision.
My frustration and anger are not related to the decision we made but the circumstances surrounding the decision.
I want to start with the statement that I am an American citizen, as is everyone in my family. I pay taxes and I also have a business in the border town in which I reside. My fiance is a veteran and works seven days a week to keep our business open and viable. Therefore, I expected that I could enroll my grandchildren into a kindergarten class when the time arrived. If you haven’t put the pieces together yet, or perhaps you aren’t exactly sure what goes on at the border with Mexico, here is a simplified fact sheet.
1. The average number of students enrolled in schools per capita in American cities is around 20%.
2. If the population is 16,000, the number of students should be approximately 3,200 students.
3. The number of students enrolled in this area is 5,868.
When you consider the effects of COVID on border restrictions, you may realize that having approximately 2,668 students in the schools in my district from Mexico is a huge disparity! Half of this town’s classroom seats will be filled by Mexican nationals during “ normal “ school years. Many will argue about the accuracy of my numbers, and that is perfectly acceptable. I teach students that I know are not United States citizens, and when they enter my classroom, I love and respect them all equally. However, if I am honest with you, I will say that as an English-speaking teacher who is not fluent in Spanish and is not allowed to speak Spanish in the classroom, I cannot be an effective teacher to these students. I use every resource available, but I know I have failed these students as an educator at the end of each day even though I have four degrees and am highly qualified in every subject’s content.
So here is my final statement. I know that laws are being broken and will continue to be broken in education around these border communities. At this point, it is an accepted and expected way of life! However, I feel that if kids are going to be turned away from a school district, which is what happened to my grandchildren, it should not be the children of American citizens!! No thought or comment you can make will justify this egregious action or the resulting ramifications. There have been extensive studies on the long-term effects of cross-border education and its drain on the United States' financial system. The most significant result of these studies was the finding that our tax payor base is declining to the point that it will not sustain the countries spending outflow shortly. This information alone should get someone’s attention. I will be the first one to admit that I have no answer and certainly no solution. Upon reading this, I encourage every one of you to write to your elected representatives and voice your concern over this issue. I will be sending this article to my Arizona elected officials.
A Ph.D. student and Celtic Priestess who is an explorer of knowledge, spirituality, and political incorrectness. Your voice and knowledge are your power!