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Letter to to the Senate in Support for the DREAM Act as part of the Department of Defense Authorization Bill

September 21, 2010

Dear Senator:


On behalf of the National Education Association's (NEA) 3.2 million members, we would like to express our support for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.  We urge you to vote YES on cloture on an amendment to add the DREAM Act to the Department of Defense authorization bill this week.  We would also like to express our disappointment that the underlying bill includes a provision authorizing private school vouchers for military families and hope that this troubling provision will be dropped from the final bill. 

DREAM Act

Each year, thousands of undocumented students who have lived in the United States for at least five years graduate from U.S. high schools.  Among these students, with whom NEA members work every day, are class valedictorians, straight-A students, and idealistic youth committed to bettering their communities.  Yet, because of enormous barriers created by their lack of legal status, many such students are unable to pursue higher education.  The loss to these students, and to society as a whole, is significant.

The DREAM Act will provide a path to legal status for individuals brought to the U.S. as undocumented children years ago.  The Act is narrowly tailored.  It would apply only to individuals brought to the U.S. at least five years ago as children, who have grown up here, and who have remained in school and out of trouble.  Such students could adjust their status to that of a conditional permanent resident and could then have the conditional status lifted if they complete at least two years of college or serve in the military.  

The bill will also have significant fiscal benefits for states and local communities.  For example, a 30-year-old immigrant who graduates from college will pay $5,300 more in taxes and cost $3,900 less in government expenses each year than if she had dropped out of high school.  State and local taxpayers have already invested in the education of these children in elementary and secondary school and through the DREAM Act could benefit from that investment.  In addition, the bill will help promote the skilled workforce necessary for our nation to compete globally.  Leading businesses such as Microsoft have endorsed the DREAM Act because they recognize that our broken immigration system is draining our economy of the talent and resources needed to compete in the global economy.

The DREAM Act is a practical, fair solution that upholds the best of our shared American values of fair opportunity, accountability, and strong work ethics.  We urge your support for the amendment to add this important legislation to the DoD bill.

Private School Vouchers

We look forward to working with the Senate to address the troubling voucher issues in this bill.  The provision in question would authorize private school vouchers for students with special needs in military families.  The proposal is completely unnecessary, as current law under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act already provides for complete services for students with special needs.  This includes covering the cost of private school if necessary to ensure full services.

On a larger scale, the proposal reflects bad public policy.  Vouchers are not real education reform.  Pulling children out of the public school system doesn’t solve problems — it ignores them.  Real reform will put a qualified teacher in every classroom, keep their skills up to date with continuing education, and raise pay to attract and retain the best teachers.  If our intent is to help children succeed, the answer is not a magic elixir that has thus far proven only that it does not improve the academic achievement of students attending schools in need of improvement.  The answer is to identify and fund proven school improvement strategies.

We thank you for your consideration of our views on these important matters. 

Sincerely,

Kim Anderson
Director of Government Relations

Mary Kusler
Manager of Federal Advocacy