As inclusive as the Florida state educational system might think it is, there are many who fall through the cracks – especially the children of migrant workers, who often need help the most.
For example, there’s Jazmin Aguirre, a Taylor T. Dewitt Middle-High School student taking advanced placement classes. According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, she hoped to take part in the Graduation Plus Migrant Summer Institute in Fort Myers to boost her preparedness for the SAT and take college level coursework – despite the fact that she’s only 16.
The Florida Department of Education (FDOE) discontinued the Graduation Plus Institute this year, however, shattering Aguirre’s dream of early achievement. The department did so because the state hired a consulting firm, which determined the $500,000 being spent on high-achieving but impoverished students such as Aguirre would be better used helping low-performing students.
One thing is for certain, however: The recipients of that $500,000 won’t be low-performing migrant teens having trouble graduating from high school. The Academic Migrant Summer Institute, a $350,000 program held at USF for the past several years, won’t be held either. That program helped migrant teens in danger of not graduating from high school. FDOE press secretary Cathy Schroeder told the Journal that USF did not inform the state that it cancelled its participation until December, when it was too late to organize another program.
USF didn’t decline to participate because the program wasn’t working. The two now-defunct programs helped 225 students last year. Those students who attended the programs expressed high praise to the Journal and the administrators who sent them feel they returned with a heightened level of dedication to their studies.
Migrant advocate Susan Johnson, who has been sending students to the two programs for more than 20 years, told the Journal, “This is a chance to experience college in a thoroughly controlled situation.”
It was, anyway.
USF’s complicity in the FDOE’s slashing of migrant teen programs is unacceptable. The definition of a migrant teen is a young adult with unskilled parents who work almost exclusively in the agricultural industry. It’s a good bet those parents probably didn’t raise their kids with much emphasis on education – in fact, it’s a good bet those parents don’t understand the importance of education in the American economy at all.
What the FDOE and USF have done is a mistake. Robbing opportunity from those who have little to help students who are wasting theirs isn’t good policy. The fact that the former institutes appeared to be working makes the decision all the worse.