Colorado

ASSET bill headed to governor

The Colorado House this morning gave 40-21 final approval to Senate Bill 13-033, the measure making undocumented students eligible for resident tuition rates at state colleges and universities.

ASSET supporters celebrate.
Sen. Mike Johnston (upper left) and Rep. Crisanta Duran (lower right) celebrate with ASSET supporters.

The vote marks the end of a decade-long fight by bill supporters to implement a policy similar to those in effect for years in such Republican-leaning states as Utah and Texas.

“The journey has finally come to a conclusion,” said Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, who was one of a long parade of Democrats who came to the microphone to make last speeches of support for the bill.

“These Colorado youth have never lost hope … because theirs is the American spirit,” said Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton.

Two freshmen Republicans, Rep. Polly Lawrence of Littleton and Rep. Lori Saine of Dacono, both argued that the bill offers “false hope” to immigrant students who won’t be able to legally work after graduation.

But Salazar said, “There is no false hope in Senate Bill 33.”

Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, said the bill “sends a very clear message to the students … that the state of Colorado believes in your potential.”

Supporters of the bill have argued that the policy is a matter of fairness for students who were brought to the U.S. as young children and have lived here most of their lives. Proponents also believe the bill will bring in additional tuition revenue for colleges and universities and help raise the education level of the state’s workforce.

Non-resident tuition, which undocumented students have to pay now, generally is three times resident rates, a significant barrier for many students.

The tuition issue has been unavoidably entangled in the politics of immigration, with most Republicans and some Democrats opposing the idea the first several times it was proposed. Variations of the plan, such as in-between tuition rates, were proposed – unsuccessfully – in efforts to gain support.

A version of the bill likely would have passed on the House floor last session with one Republican vote, but the GOP leadership ensured that it was killed in committee. Passage of the ASSET bill this year was considered assured after Democrats took control of both houses in the November 2012 elections.

The idea also gained support last year after President Obama issued an executive order potentially making it easier for such students to gain residency. Also last year, the Metro State University trustees got tired of waiting and instituted their own policy to reduce costs for undocumented students.

Three Republicans voted for the bill on final passage, Reps. Cheri Gerou of Evergreen, Clarice Navarro-Ratzlaff of Pueblo and Kevin Priola of Henderson.

Gov. John Hickenlooper Tweeted his congratulations to ASSET supporters after the vote.

To be eligible for resident tuition students must have attended a Colorado high school for three years prior to graduation or have finished a GED, be admitted to a state college or university and provide an affidavit stating they have applied for lawful residency in the U.S. or will apply as soon as they are eligible to do so.

Legislative fiscal analysts estimate the bill will raise $2 million in additional tuition revenue in 2013-14 and $3 million in 2014-15. The analysis projects 500 students would take advantage of the law next school year, with 250 more a year joining the program through 2016-17.

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at cbauman@chalkbeat.org.

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede