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DREAM Act on the next week's agenda for Regents, Assembly

The Board of Regents and the Assembly are teaming up next week to push for legislation that would give New York’s roughly 150,000 undocumented students access to financial aid for college.

On Monday, the board will convene a forum in Queens on immigration and education to wrap up their monthly meeting. The forum will discuss ways to increase opportunities for English language learners and undocumented students who were brought to the United States as children.

That has been part of the board’s legislative agenda for the past two years. The bill, the New York Dream Act, would give undocumented students access to state financial aid through the $1 billion-funded Tuition Assistance Program, or TAP. It would also allow them to open tax-advantaged savings accounts with private banks.

The TAP funding in this year’s budget is up from $885 million in 2010-2011. The Fiscal Policy Institute, an independent research organization, has estimated that the state would need to spend an additional $17 million annually to afford tuition assistance for the roughly 4,500 undocumented seniors who graduate from New York high schools every year.

“There are hundreds of thousands of students in New York who have been condemned to a life of poverty simply because they were brought to the United States as children,” Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said. “Their immigration status is determined solely by the status of their parents, and they’re being denied opportunities that the rest of America takes for granted.”

The legislation, sponsored by Francisco Moya, is also a top priority for the Assembly, Speaker Sheldon Silver said this week. The Assembly intends to pass the bill on Tuesday, but not before it votes on a resolution to investigate sexual harassment and misconduct allegations by Assemblyman Vito Lopez, a process that could eventually lead to his expulsion.

Whatever its fortunes in the Assembly are, the bill has little chance of moving in the Senate. Leaders Jeff Klein, a Democrat, and Dean Skelos, a Republican, have said they would only support a version of the legislation that didn’t require more funding for TAP. Skelos has said he’d prefer to offer financial assistance through a private fund.

While state education officials are in New York City, they’ll also be touring schools that were ravaged by Hurricane Sandy more than six months ago. On their public schedule for Monday are visits to P.S. 38 in Staten Island, Scholars’ Academy and Beach Channel Educational Campus, which houses five schools. GothamSchools wrote about the recovery efforts by one of those schools, Channel View School for Research, and its struggles to recoup what it lost in the storm’s aftermath:

In the storm’s aftermath, Channel View was displaced from its building for two months and has struggled to recover. Teachers’ and students’ homes were destroyed, parents lost their jobs, and ongoing work to rebuild the Rockaway Peninsula has made for a bleak backdrop in which to go to school.

Even four months after the school returned to its building, students and staff say that something is missing. In interviews, they struggled to identify what they had lost.

“It’s something that we can’t grasp, what the issue is,” said Jennifer Walter, the school’s guidance counselor. “But you can feel it.”

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