50-Mile Rule Regulation


California Stands up for Children of Farmworkers, Lifts Key Barrier to Education

Provision in California State Budget, passed yesterday, now exempts farmworker families from “50-mile rule” interrupting school year

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Thousands of schoolchildren are celebrating the passage of the state budget because it creates a new exemption to the oppressive “50-mile rule” that previously forced them to change schools twice each year, a barrier to getting an education.

The exemption was sponsored in Sacramento by Food Empowerment Project (F.E.P.), a food justice organization that addresses inequities in the food system, and The Center for Farmworker Families, a nonprofit improving the lives of farmworker families. Assemblymember Anna M. Caballero (D-Salinas) authored the exemption, which became California Law.

A regulation of the California Department of Housing and Community Development requires farmworkers to leave state-subsidized housing provided to migrant labor, and move at least 50 miles away, in order to be eligible for housing the following year. The law is a relic of a time when migrant workers were primarily young, single men – but today, the state’s agricultural workers are a vastly different demographic, and include families with approximately 3,500 children, according to research by Kaveh Danesh, economics PhD candidate at UC Berkeley studying poverty and inequality.

Children’s education is grievously interrupted each time they are forced to move. Families eligible for housing in the state’s 24 housing centers were obligated to leave their school districts in November, two months into the K-12 academic year, and return in May near the end of the year, often too late for standardized testing. This disruption “contributes to academic failure and a persistent cycle of poverty,” according to Dr. Ann López, executive director of the Center for Farmworker Families.

“Mexican American children of farmworkers represent the only targeted minority group in the state of California that is deprived of consistent childhood education,” said López. “This damaging racist policy has now been corrected.”

“The 50-mile regulation was a violation of the basic human right of education, and intentionally harmed children of farmworkers,” said F.E.P. executive director Iauren Ornelas. “The people who feed all of ussacrifice so much for their children, and this unfair hardship was an added oppression.”

“Children are the most important infrastructure program we have, and staying in their schools will contribute to everyone having a better quality of life,” said Harry Snyder, is Advocacy Leader in Residence, UC Berkeley School of Public Health. “These families have worked for decades so their children can have the opportunity other kids have. California’s future is enhanced by these children, who know firsthand that hard work pays off, getting the education they want.”

“The arbitrary 50-mile rule has long forced migrant families to move at the end of the agricultural season and take their children out of school mid-year, causing children to fall behind,” said Caballero. “Now, after months of working with stakeholders and the Administration, this wrong has been corrected. School-aged children and their families will now be allowed to reside at OMS centers year-round, so children can stay enrolled in the same school. There is no question that education is vital to a child’s future success. Housing and school stability will allow the children of migrant farmworkers to focus on their studies and on learning, not on the anxiety of moving to a new school mid-year.”

The exemption allows for up to half of all migrant worker housing to be exempt if needed by families with children in K-12 schools.

The two organizations, which have been advocating for this change since 2010, wish to thank those who sent letters, attended protests, called their legislators, contributed research, and wish to thank farmworkers for their efforts.

The exemption is in effect only until 2024, and will need to be made permanent at that point.

About Food Empowerment Project

Food Empowerment Project (http://www.foodispower.org), founded in 2007, seeks to create a more just and sustainable world by recognizing the power of one’s food choices. In all of its work, Food Empowerment Project seeks specifically to empower those with the fewest resources. Its advocacy areas include fair conditions for farm workers, the availability of healthy foods in communities of color and low-income areas, the protection of animals on farms, and conservation of natural resources. A vegan food justice organization, Food Empowerment Project also works to expose negligent corporations, such as those that push unhealthy foods into low-income areas, those that perpetuate food deserts, and those that sell chocolate derived from the worst forms of child labor. Food Empowerment Project is a registered non-profit 501(c)(3).

About Center for Farmworker Families

The Center for Farmworker Families (http://www.farmworkerfamily.org) promotes awareness about the difficult life circumstances of binational farmworker families while proactively inspiring improvement in binational family life both in the United States and in Mexico. It promotes the educational advancement of farm workers and their family members working in agriculture, as well as family members who are living on their farms of origin in the west central Mexico countryside. The Center for Farmworker supports projects in both Mexico and California that sustainably promote financial and nutritional well-being and independence, and examines federal and state legal structures that govern the lives and well-being of farmworkers to promote changes necessary for improved livelihood and well-being.