Predictably, Nashville’s Metro Council, school board and mayoral candidate Erica Gilmore want Governor Haslam to veto HB2315, the anti-sanctuary city legislation sitting on his desk. Nashville’s leadership wants the Governor to protect criminal illegal aliens. But Nashville’s advocacy for illegal aliens goes further, wanting all Tennessee taxpayers to continue sharing the fiscal burden for the 33,000 illegal aliens estimated to be living, working and going to school in Davidson County.
Part of Nashville’s gripe is that they believe the state should give them more public money to pay for more services like English Language Learner (ELL) instruction and translators for the 15,000 or so students in their schools that need these services. Davidson County is reputed to have the highest concentration of students in the state, who need to learn the English.
As it is, in FY 2017, state and local governments in Tennessee spent $122.3 million dollars to fund ELL services for all non-English speaking legal and illegal alien students enrolled in Tennessee’s public schools.
It is estimated that across the state, approximately 135,000 illegal aliens including the 33,000 in Davidson County, cost Tennessee taxpayers $793 million dollars in 2017. This cost estimate does not include remittance money sent by illegal alien workers to their home countries and the negative impact on local economies when these funds are permanently taken out of circulation. In 2017, approximately $26.1 billion dollars was transferred out of the economy by Mexican nationals working in the U.S..
Two days ago, the Nashville Metro Council passed a resolution calling on Gov. Haslam to veto the anti-sanctuary cities bill. Erica Gilmore is a sponsor of the measure and believes the anti-sanctuary city bill would apply to those she calls “citizens”:
These are citizens who are contributing, our neighbors, people who go to school, it will tear about families and we don’t want to do that.
It’s not clear whether Gilmore has read the Green-Reedy bill or just doesn’t understand that sanctuary policies and practices only protect criminal illegal aliens.
In fact, it was the Metro Council’s sanctuary city ordinance proposed last year that helped fuel passage of the new legislation which augments and puts teeth into Tennessee’s current sanctuary city law.
Gilmore was a sponsor of last year’s sanctuary city bill which the Metro Council passed on a second reading before an uprising by the Tennessee General Assembly persuaded its sponsors to drop it before a third and final reading. Had the ordinance been passed, it would have made Nashville the most liberal sanctuary city in the U.S..
Even before the Metro Nashville Council tried to institutionalize its sanctuary city status, the Metro Nashville School Board reacting to President Trump’s election, unanimously passed its own resolution in support of refugee and immigrant students. Statements of support offered by the TN Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) indicated that the school board’s resolution included illegal alien students.
The Metro School Board has also issued a statement asking Governor Haslam to veto HB2315.
In September 2016, Metro Nashville Public Schools, backed by the Metro Council, sued the state wanting more money for English Language Learner (ELL) services, alleging that the state did not meet the Basic Education Program funding formula and as such, state funding was inadequate to pay for the proper ratio of students to teachers and translators.
Tennessee Department of Education spokeswoman Sara Gast noted that in 2016, the state had provided $220 million in new funding, including $14 million in new funds for English language learners and that the “increased ELL funding benefits MNPS more than any other school district in the state.”
State funding for ELL services in Tennessee public schools, a cost shared by all state taxpayers, has increased annually bringing the 2012 $49 million up to $88.4 million in fiscal year 2017. The required local share has increased from $21 million to $33.9 million during the same time.
By Metro Nashville’s own admission as stated in their 2016 lawsuit, “[t]he most common native languages [spoken by Nashville school students] are Spanish (over 16,000 students), Arabic (over 3,000 students), Kurdish (over 1,000 students), Somali (approximately 800 students), and Vietnamese (approximately 500 students).”
According to a fact sheet posted by the TN Educational Equity Coalition which Randy Boyd’s education non-profit Complete Tennessee partners with:
- 56,528 ELLs are enrolled in Tennessee public schools
- 65% of ELLs in the K-12 grades were born in the U.S.
- the largest enrollment of ELLs are in Davidson, Shelby, Knox, Rutherford, Hamilton and Hamblen counties
The number of illegal alien students enrolled in Tennessee public schools is not collected, only the number of non-English speakers who may not all be illegal aliens. However, after the ICE raid at the Southeastern Provision meatpacking facility, Hamblen County Schools Superintendent Jeff Perry said that “about 530 students didn’t come to class in Hamblen County schools…That’s about 5% of the district’s roughly 10,000 students, and nearly a quarter of its Latino student population.”
Roughly 86,000 students are enrolled in Davidson County public schools. Using Hamblen County’s estimate of 5% that likely have an illegal immigration status would be over 4,000 students Nashville students in that category.
As a result of the raid, Hamblen County schools spent additional resources to provide guidance counselors for students. Teachers and advocates took steps to help students freely talk about family members who were detained in the raid so that students would “feel safe.”
It’s safe to say, that efforts by school personnel in Hamblen County and school officials in Davidson County are working to help normalize illegal immigration to Tennessee.
TIRRC’s message “we are here to stay” is clearer still; illegal immigration in Tennessee is a fact of life that citizens and legal immigrants will just have to accept.
At least with regard to criminal illegal aliens, the Green-Reedy bill is a step Governor Haslam can and should take to counter the type of culture shift that TIRRC and some city officials are trying to institute.