As the stateís attorney for Prince Georgeís County, my number one priority is public safety — holding accountable those who break the law and working collaboratively with law enforcement to deter crime and keep our communities safe. And as my 7-year-old daughter [starts] second grade, and I see children and teens in our neighborhoods [heading] back to school, Iím reminded of the power of education to meet these objectives.
We all know that school matters — kids who stay in school are far more likely to stay out of trouble and to contribute to our society. Everyone from teachers to school administrators and parents to nonprofit organizations knows that we all need to work together to encourage students to stay in school. In November, Maryland voters will have the opportunity to vote for the Maryland Dream Act, a common-sense law that will help keep kids in school and encourage them to excel and go on to college.
There are a lot of reasons to support Dream Act. For one, it is fair — students who would be eligible for the Dream Act have attended a Maryland high school for at least three years and graduated. Their families have paid Maryland taxes for at least three years. As part of the act, the students must attend community college first and then transfer to a four-year college or university, and they must earn acceptance.
This law is not a handout or a special benefit; it simply makes the rules the same for everyone. As an attorney and an elected official, I know how important it is to hold everyone to the same set of standards and treat all taxpayers fairly. These kids have done nothing wrong; they were brought to this country at a young age and theyíve grown up in the same neighborhoods as their classmates. They have done well in school, volunteered in their communities, paid their taxes and worked hard. Without this law, these students will be charged out-of-state tuition to attend the very same colleges as their peers — even though they have gone to the same high schools and paid the same taxes.
But this is about more than just fairness; itís also about proactively pursuing solutions to the public safety challenges our community faces. I have spoken to teachers whoíve seen the crestfallen look on a studentís face when he realizes that no matter how high he scores on the SAT or how many AP classes he takes or how often he tutors younger kids after school, heíll be faced with a giant roadblock after high school. While his American-born friends can attend the University of Maryland, Towson University, Bowie State University or any of our other Maryland public colleges and universities, they will be forced to pay almost triple the in-state tuition rate to attend the very same school. Times are tough for all of us; can you imagine being charged nearly three times more to send your child to a Maryland college, when youíve been paying the same Maryland taxes as everyone else?
Despite tremendous efforts from our teachers and a meaningful commitment from our school systems and elected officials, achievement gaps persist, especially with at-risk and immigrant populations. This law sends a signal to all our kids, regardless of immigration status, that staying in school and doing well matters. And by keeping them in school, we keep kids safe and out of trouble. Thereís no smarter investment than encouraging all our students, regardless of race, ethnicity or immigration status, to stay in school and graduate.
Growing up, my parents taught my sister and me that college was the ticket to a prosperous future and the American dream — everything they wanted for us. I believe that, and I know that higher education enabled me to follow my dreams. Now that Iím a parent, I understand what it means to want a bright future for your child more than anything else in the world.
Letís stand up for talented, hardworking kids who want a chance at their own American dream and the opportunity to give back to our state. It is not only the right thing to do, it can also be a key way to incentivize kids to stay in school and go on to college, keeping them out of trouble and building the talented, competitive workforce we need to succeed.
Prince Georgeís County Stateís Attorney Angela Alsobrooks