A nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California’s policies and politics

Trump v. California

In this corner: Education

For basic background, start with The weigh-in: Education

issue
DREAMers
School Vouchers
status
All talk, no action—yet
It's on!
Punch
Counter-punch
On the ropes
Draw!
California wins!
Trump wins!

When University of California President Janet Napolitano led the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2012, she created DACA, the federal program that safeguards nearly 800,000 young immigrants from deportation.

Now, as the program faces a threat of extinction and its participants scramble to determine what to do if those protections disappear, she’s suing the Trump administration to try to save it.

Attorneys for Napolitano and the state’s vast public university system filed a lawsuit Friday in federal court, calling the Trump administration’s plans to end DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, “unconstitutional, unjust and unlawful.”

In a statement, Napolitano acknowledged the unusual circumstances surrounding the move—she’s suing the very agency she once led—but she said it’s imperative to stand up for DREAMers, whom she describes as “vital members of the UC community.”

UC President Janet Napolitano. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

“They represent the best of who we are—hard-working, resilient and motivated high achievers,” Napolitano said. “To arbitrarily and capriciously end the DACA program, which benefits our community as a whole, is not only unlawful, it is contrary to our national values and bad policy.”

UC enrolls about 4,000 undocumented students, a substantial number of whom are protected by DACA. These young people were either illegally brought to the U.S. by their parents when they were children, or lost legal status when their families remained after their international visas expired.

Earlier this week, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced plans to wind down the program in six months unless Congress acts to protect the participants. Later Trump himself took to Twitter to suggest he didn’t consider the case closed:

To prepare UC’s complaint, the first filed by a university since Sessions’ announcement, the system got pro bono help from former Obama administration Attorney General Eric Holder’s law firm Covington and Burling, which the Legislature hired earlier this year as a consultant.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. Photo by Steve Yeater for CALmatters

Asking President Trump to fulfill his commitment to so-called “DREAMers,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and 19 other states’ chief law enforcement officers issued a letter today urging him to save a program that protects nearly 800,000 young immigrants from deportation.

During the campaign, Trump vowed to end the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but he’s softened his position since taking office, calling the DACA program’s recipients “incredible kids” who should “rest easy” because they’re not priorities for deportation.

More than a quarter of the five-year-old program’s participants are from California.

“Donald Trump says we should treat DACA grantees ‘with heart’ – and I agree,” Becerra said in a statement. “Instead of frightening kids, we should empower them to fulfill their potential.”

According to the letter, the program has opened doors to college and boosted young immigrants’ purchasing power.

The letter also implores the President not to “capitulate” to a 10-state coalition of Republican officials who have threatened to sue if the program isn’t phased out by September and even asks him to defend it in court should a fresh legal challenge arise.

“We urge you to affirm America’s values and tradition as a nation of immigrants and make clear that you will not only continue DACA, but that you will defend it,” the letter states. “The cost of not doing so would be too high for America, the economy and for those young people.”

Other signatories include attorneys general from: Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Washington and Washington, D.C.

The Trump administration has unveiled its fully fleshed-out budget proposal, a fiscal vision characterized by significant cuts to discretionary spending programs and, among other things, a dramatic shift in education policy that could have a big impact on California schooling.

Some of the most dramatic changes would come in the form of spending cuts. The proposal argues for a $9.2 billion net reduction for the Department of Education.

As the Los Angeles Times has reported, that would likely mean the elimination of the Supporting Effective Instruction State grant, a program that provides roughly a quarter of a billion dollars to California schools. These dollars are used for teacher retention and the improvement of teacher quality. Though the Obama administration raised questions about the program’s efficacy, some advocates have warned that terminating the program could exacerbate the state’s shortage of qualified teachers.

But more than a series of cuts, the budget also represents a marked shift in philosophy about education. In the introduction, President Trump argues that federal education policy should focus on “advancing opportunities for parents and students to choose, from all available options, the school that best fits their needs to learn and succeed.”

The administration has called for more than $400 million to fund charter schools and to provide vouchers for private and religious schools. Though such proposals are likely to be opposed by the Democratic Party and teachers’ unions, tax-funded vouchers appear to be remarkably popular among California public-school parents.

For now, the administration’s budget proposal is just that—a proposal. All budget decisions are ultimately made by Congress, where even some Republicans are viewing the president’s proposal with skepticism.

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