Teaching Profession

New York Board Paves Way for Undocumented Immigrants to Get Teacher Licenses

By Emmanuel Felton — March 15, 2016 1 min read
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The New York Board of Regents is clearing the path for DREAMers—that is, undocumented immigrants brought to the United States by their parents as children, who were granted temporary legal status under the Obama administration’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program—to get teacher certifications, the Staten Island Advance reports.

New York isn’t the first state to allow noncitizens to teach. California passed a similar bill in 2014. Last year, the Republican governor of Nevada, Brian Sandoval, signed a bill making it easier for districts to hire immigrants with temporary legal status. Proponents of the move hoped it would alleviate the teacher shortage in the fast-growing Clark County School District, which serves Las Vegas and surrounding environs.

In 2014, the Denver school district’s then-Superintendent Tom Boasberg announced that through a partnership with Teach For America, the district had become the first to use DACA to hire undocumented teachers. Boasberg said the move would help the district better serve it’s nearly 30,000 English-language learners:

Thanks to this partnership, we are now able to hire some very talented teachers who are committed to giving back to their community and who are an inspiration to our kids. These teachers often are bilingual or multi-lingual and have a deep personal understanding of the challenges that many of our students face who similarly came to this country in undocumented status as young children."

TFA itself is recruiting “DACAmented teachers” to work in districts across the country. The organization now boasts 90 such educators working in 13 regions, including in states where DREAMers can’t currently get teaching licenses.

As in other states, not everyone in New York is happy with the move. Dean Murray, a Long Island Republican, released a statement saying DREAMers would edge out citizens seeking scarce teaching positions:

This is an insult to all of our hard working legal residents who are also trying to obtain licensure. New York City Democrats have been cutting education funding and forcing our schools to cut jobs, leaving our teachers and recent college graduates unable to find gainful employment. Now the Board of Regents wants to make it even tougher for our legal residents? This is a slap in the face to the law-abiding taxpayers of New York who are legally looking to forward their careers and opportunities."

Murray added that existing regulations that require districts to hire English as a second language teachers to help better serve the states’ growing numbers of English-language learners would further advantage Dreamers over citizens.

The Board of Regents will vote on finalizing the plan after a public comment period.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.