A silver lining for Latinos in Tuesday’s election is San Francisco’s passage of Proposition N. Proposition N gives all San Francisco Unified School District parents the right to vote for Board of Education members irrespective of their immigration status. Can the Pasadena Unified School District be the next California school district to extend the right to vote to all parents?
I went to PUSD schools, including Madison Elementary School. My mother couldn’t vote for the Board of Education Members who governed my schooling because she wasn’t a citizen. As I’ve organized this year on the Madison Elementary School issues, I’ve talked to many Latino parents with students in PUSD who are concerned about their kids’ education, like my mother was, but still can’t vote for Board of Education members like my mother couldn’t.
The main argument made by San Francisco’s advocates for Proposition N was that educating kids works better when parents are participating in the school system; letting all parents vote encourages more participation in and ownership of the public schools by many parents whose kids are enrolled in schools but who have not had the right to vote on who governs their school. SF Unified School District, like PUSD, has a growing student body of 1st and 2nd generation Latino students, and many of their parents are not citizens. Proposition N now gives them the opportunity to more fully participate in their school system.
A knee-jerk response of some people to the idea of allowing voting by new immigrants who haven’t yet become citizens is that voting is a right for only citizens. I’ve been surprised to learn as I’ve looked at the parent-voting issue that, historically, immigrant residents did have the right to vote in elections in the U.S. But after the Reconstruction era when Jim Crow laws started preventing the newly-freed slaves from voting, the same political forces passed anti-immigrant laws which denied new immigrants the right to vote. San Francisco State University Political Science Professor Ronald Hayduk has written about this history in his book “Democracy for All: Restoring Immigrant Voting Rights in the United States.”
Professor Hayduk is going to be speaking at a forum at the Pasadena Public Library 4th floor conference room on Tuesday, November 22, from 6:45-8:45 pm. Pasadena Star-News Editorial Page Editor Larry Wilson will be moderating, The Forum is sponsored by a new organization, Pasadenans Empowering Parental Participation in Educational Governance. Professor Hayduk is the leading academic authority on this usually-unknown history of immigrant voting rights, its suppression along with the Jim Crow suppression of African-American voting, and the movements in San Francisco and other places to restore such voting to public school parents. Come join us for the discussion and get educated on the issue!
Julieta Aragon is a Latina parent of PUSD students, an organizer for the Community Coalition for Equality and Justice at Madison, and a Co-Chair of Pasadenans Empowering Parental Participation in Educational Governance.