If sanctuary school, then kiss $8 million goodbye!

-A A +A

Guest Editorial

On August 29, 2017, our County Council unanimously passed a proclamation honoring the contributions of immigrants. Compared to the earlier version in April, specific language was removed, its tone was softened, and a more strident “resolution” was changed to a “proclamation,” which did not require a vote. Although Councilor O’Leary called it a “milquetoast,” “weak half measure of timid support,” Councilor Maggiore recognized “that the original was a little inflammatory, a little reactionary to what just transpired on the national scene...” “We’re not actually trying to create new laws or turn the county into a sanctuary county,” because we would be “fools to do that.” Councilor Sheehey, remarked “I see this as a statement of values. I have no intention of trying to push our county into some kind of a legal battle about sanctuary cities.”

Good move. On Nov. 17, our Department of Justice sent letters to 29 sanctuary jurisdictions, including Bernalillo County, that may have laws, policies, or practices that violate 8 U.S.C. 1373, a federal statute that promotes information sharing related to immigration enforcement. DOJ warned that noncompliance could result in the required repayment of past law enforcement grants as well as the loss of future funding.

This past summer, the Los Alamos Public School Board noticed that a draft RFP for a potential contractor did not include an annual $8 million in funding, and quickly drafted comment to “avoid any unwanted surprises.” Indeed, this $8 million to the LAPS has been funneled from DOE, through the indirect budget of the LANL management and operating contractor since 1998.

“It is better for all potential bidders to be aware of this unusual and extremely important provision up front,” said Bill Wadt. I sense panic.

Earlier this year, New Mexico State University cited a fear of losing public funding as its reason for declining to become a sanctuary campus. Good move. One hundred of the nation’s top universities could lose as much as 25 percent of their annual revenue if they refuse to help immigration agents. Indeed, money is a powerful tool to force compliance with federal laws.

So then, is it in our best interest, to adopt official school policy that exactly mirrors the language of a sanctuary “safe zone”? Is this the message we want to send to the DOE?

At the meeting this past week, I urged the School Board to revise, shorten, and soften this resolution. Our teachers do not need more burdensome, confusing, and punitive regulations. A “sanctuary school” label draws national attention to students that were once under the radar, quietly educated under U.S. Supreme Court precedent.

Given the challenge to maintain our educational programs despite budget shortfalls, a loss of DOE funding for school operations would be devastating. Our negotiating strength is greater from a position of support, or even neutrality. It is severely weakened from a position of obstructionism. Compliance, not defiance. Resist the Resistance. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

It is unwise and unnecessary for Los Alamos Public Schools to join the Sanctuary Schools coalition. Our LAPS Board members were elected to “build upon our proven foundation of excellence in education” not to engage in political shenanigans that threaten the funding necessary to do just that.