Katy ISD administrative building. Credit: Ayesha Muzaffar

My Katy ISD board member thinks undocumented students are a burden. Here’s why she’s wrong.

As debates over Texas immigration laws are heating up, questions and proposals about immigration and education are taking shape further away from the border.

On May 6, Katy ISD school board member Morgan Calhoun asked in a school board meeting: “Do we have any way of measuring, or coming to an understanding, of how many illegal immigrant children that we have within our district that we are educating?” After getting shut down due to her proposition being unlawful in the state of Texas, Calhoun pushed further and made remarks about potentially speaking to Texas lawmakers in regards to amending legislation that would allow for school boards across the state to gain access to the immigration status of children.

Calhoun was given three minutes of uninterrupted time to talk about financial deficits and Katy ISD funding; she chose to allocate all of that time to the “monetary impacts” that “illegal immigrants” are allegedly having on our financial department. After receiving immense backlash from people throughout Houston, she decided to double down on this excuse. In an email to the Houston Chronicle, she stated “I asked a very simple question related to compiling data so that it could be used to advocate and pursue funding to meet a need that we may have.” This question not only proves her inexperience, but it also highlights the harmful power dynamic occurring in the Katy ISD school board.

Texas schools garner their funding through local school district property taxes, state funds, and federal funds. If Calhoun’s question really regarded funding, it would have no merit: undocumented immigrants still pay the same taxes that every other student does. Her question, in its true light, is simply a way to gain information that can only hamper the education rights of students. Instead of trying to make education stronger and more purposeful in local communities, Morgan Calhoun and people like her all over the state of Texas push for more exclusive laws that filter out students that come from disadvantaged or underrepresented backgrounds. 

Undocumented immigrants in our state may not come forth and represent themselves in public comment due to fear of persecution, giving them no say in school board meetings. Board members like Calhoun use that disadvantage to foster an environment of fear and persecution. The laws that they push solely jeopardize the education rights of immigrant youth, which the Supreme Court case Plyler v Doe ruled in 1982 were protected under the Fourteenth Amendment. 

As students and as members of our respective communities, we must advocate for change in the face of rampant bigotry and abuse of power. We can research and read about local school board members, use that information to vote for candidates that are opposed to harmful narratives, and help propel people that can represent the youth on a larger level. In addition to voting, anyone can speak at their local school board meeting. Talk to your local school board, get on a platform and further ideas that can support a positive movement. Call out school board members for their unwillingness to listen and change the way they act. Use your power as a student to support a narrative that focuses on education for everyone regardless immigration status. 

Although their rights have been challenged time and time again, immigrant youth have stood against extreme dogmatism and power imbalances and advocated for change. The only option now is to stand with them. Support the immigrant youth in your area and help them, amplify their voices and advocate for them; only then can we work against elected officials like Calhoun. 

Advocate for change. Advocate for a better society.

Section: Schooling
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