Friday, April 28, 2006

California Senate Shocker: School Boycott Endorsed!

Adding fuel to an already smoldering fire, the California State Senate has passed a resolution endorsing a boycott of schools and businesses by illegal immigrants and their supporters. The nationwide boycott is set for Monday, May 1:
State senators on Thursday endorsed Monday's boycott of schools, jobs and stores by illegal immigrants and their allies as supporters equated the protest with great social movements in American history.

By a 24-13 vote that split along party lines, the Senate approved a resolution that calls the one-day protest the Great American Boycott 2006 and describes it as an attempt to educate Americans "about the tremendous contribution immigrants make on a daily basis to our society and economy."

"It's one day ... for immigrants to tell the country peacefully, 'We matter ... (we're) not invisible,'" said Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, the resolution's chief author. She said immigrants make up a third of California's labor force and a quarter of its residents.

Opponents said the nonbinding resolution was misleading because it failed to mention a goal of the boycott was pressuring Congress to legalize millions of undocumented people.

"It is a disingenuous effort to put the government of California on record supporting open borders," said Sen. Bill Morrow, R-Oceanside.

The boycott, also called "A Day Without Immigrants," grew out of huge pro-immigrant marches across the United States in recent weeks. Organizers are urging people to stay home from school and jobs and avoid spending money on Monday to demonstrate their importance to the U.S. economy.

California's top education official appeared with school officials in several cities Thursday to urge students to stay in school on Monday.

State Superintendent for Public Instruction Jack O'Connell encouraged students interested in the immigration issue to voice their opinions by participating in protest activities - but only after attending their classes.

"If students need to protest, they should feel free to do so after school," O'Connell told students and reporters at San Jose High Academy. "We want students to exercise free speech, but not at the expense of their education."

Rallies are planned for Monday in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Gardena, Bell, Santa Ana, Sacramento, San Jose, Oakland, Concord and other cities.

School officials in San Leandro, meanwhile, said Thursday that rising tensions over the immigration issue may have contributed to a series of brawls between Hispanic and black teenagers.

Over a dozen San Leandro High School students were taken into custody Wednesday following the fights that started on campus and spilled over into the parking lot of a nearby convenience store.

While educators theorized that the stress children of immigrants are under while the immigration debate roils may have played a role in the violence, students told television station KTVU that racial tensions predated recent developments.

Several senators equated the protest with the civil rights movement of the 1960s and other major events in American history.

Segregation was ended in part because of the public bus boycott by blacks in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955, said Romero.

Sen. Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, likened the debate over immigrant rights to the fights over slavery, women's suffrage, the internment of Japanese during World War II, and the Vietnam War.

America wouldn't have been created without illegal action, said Sen. Richard Alarcon, D-Van Nuys. "They dumped a bunch of tea in Boston harbor, illegally. God bless them," he said.

But Sen. Dave Cox, R-Fair Oaks, said lawmakers should not encourage lawbreakers even if they disagreed with the law.

"It is irresponsible for this body to advocate that students leave school for any reason," Cox said.

He introduced a bill that would require a special school attendance audit on Monday, so that schools would not receive state aid for any student who was truant. School funding is based on attendance levels. O'Connell said the state would not grant waivers to schools that lose funding if students were absent while out protesting.

The debate was personal and emotional for some senators.

Sen. Nell Soto, D-Pomona, recalled watching as a child as immigration police swept up brown-skinned farmworkers, "not even asking if they were illegal or illegal."

Sen. Martha Escutia, D-Norwalk, described how her grandfather remained in the country illegally after overstaying a work permit during the 1940s, when he picked fruits and vegetables while American men were fighting World War II.

"This happened 60 years ago. And you know what? The story still continues," Escutia said, choking up as she described her 11-year-old son asking her about the controversy. She said the Great American Boycott should be renamed "the Great American Secret, and that is we all rely on someone who is here illegally."

Sen. Tom McClintock, R-Thousand Oaks, while citing immigrants' contributions, said the nation's goal should be assimilation: "From many people, one people, the American people. One race, the American race."
You can read the text of the actual resolution, SCR 113, right here.

In spite of the California Senate's tacit approval of the deliberate breaking of California's compulsory school attendance laws, our district's superintendent has sent home a letter advising students that Monday is not a holiday and that the parents of any student who is absent must call the school or send a note with the child verifying that the absence was due to illness or the observance of a religious holiday.

In effect, what this means is that if the child stays out of school on Monday and the parent is willing to lie about the reason, the school system has little recourse. Still...we like the idea that our superintendent has done what he could.

Having said that, the use of the boycott as a method of non-violent protest by Americans is a time-honored tradition. It is our view that the simple act of not patronizing a business or industry is a valid form of protest that can be highly effective.

However, we are disappointed that our state's senate has chosen to officially endorsed this boycott. But we are even more disappointed that these men and women masquerading-as-lawmakers didn't write anything in their resolution specifically expressing their non-support of those aspects of the boycott that are aimed at schools.

In our eyes, those men and women of the California Senate who voted for this resolution have done our state's children a grave disservice by encouraging them and their parents to break the law.

Even though we've had our disagreements with some of State Superintendent Jack O'Connell's (bio
here) public statements, we applaud him for going on the record and stating in no uncertain terms that that this school boycott in not in the best interest of the children.
See our latest education-related entries right here.