A Day Without Immigrants, A Day Without School

So what was the effect on schools of the May 1 “Day Without Immigrants”?

It depends on where the school is.

In Utah, the attendance was sporadic. In the Los Angeles Unified School District, 1 in 4 students was absent. South of Los Angeles, in the PajaroValley Unified School District 7,000 of 19,000 students skipped school, and a bomb threat at the high school cancelled class for the rest of the students. In White Plains, NY, about 500 teens participated in a demonstration at the Westchester County Courthouse. One Denver high school reported an absentee rate of 98 percent. In Dade County, Florida, attendance overall was 82 percent, down from a usual rate of 90 percent. The parts of Dade County that were most affected were schools in Little Havana, Little Haiti and the southernmost town of Homestead, home to many migrant workers for many generations. In Passaic County, New Jersey, 48 percent of students did not attend school.

In many schools, the No Child Left Behind standardized tests were to be given. They had to be rescheduled. Schools that closed will likely need to make up the day – and pay the cost in lost state dollars and additional operating expenses.

I understand the need to utilize the event as an educational experience – but I do not understand equating a work stoppage with a school strike. Education is a free benefit to all people who come to the United States, whether their immigration status is legal or illegal. Education is needed to succeed. Truancy is not a sign of empowerment. Immigrant lives are made better through education – leaving school does not show that the organizers of the event value the education which benefits all who come here.

Across the United States, the local public schools are the institutions that offer the most day to day support of children whose parents are here legally and illegally. The truancy that affected those schools that give the most support to immigrant families had a disruptive effect on day to day education, and assessment that is directly linked to state and federal funding. The strike was a poor way to show support of the institutions that support these families most. It is a shame that the organizers of the well coordinated event could not further reach into those schools to share the truly “teachable moment” with all students. True, many students attended rallies to support their families – but many did not. Encouraging impromptu truancy did nothing to encourage immigrant families to take full advantage of one of the best benefits the United States has to offer – a free public education. I hope that in the future, those who advocate so well for the rights of all immigrants, legal and illegal, will bridge the gap to include partnership with schools.

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