|NUMBER 294||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||JULY 2010|
|Arizona Bill Would Reveal Costs of Educating Illegal Immigrants|
Arizona has another bill in the pipeline that could make the debate over the state's recent immigration enforcement law look like a minor skirmish. Senate Bill 1097 would require public schools to report the number of illegal immigrant children in their student populations, and to provide an estimate of the costs associated with educating those children.
The legislation does not require schools to deny public education to children who are not citizens, but may provide the basis for the Supreme Court to reconsider a 1982 decision involving funding public education for illegal immigrants.
In Plyer vs. Doe, a five-to-four majority said Texas could not deny education funding for students there illegally, even while allowing that the law was not unconstitutional. The majority opinion stated that while public education is not a fundamental right, the law furthered no "substantial goal of the state," particularly since Texas failed to prove "any significant burden to the State's economy." In an op-ed for WorldNetDaily, former Colorado congressman Tom Tancredo remarked, "That may have been true in Texas in 1982, but is it true in Arizona in 2010? Is it true anywhere in Texas, California, Nevada, Colorado, Oklahoma, Utah or Georgia in 2010?"
Some supporters of the bill think that if Arizona can prove that educating an increasingly large proportion of illegal students places an undue hardship on the public treasury, the Supreme Court might consider overturning that ruling. Regardless, wrote Tancredo, if the law passes, "The public will then know the true cost of providing public education to the children of illegal aliens," which could fuel citizen demand for a change in public policy.
The Arizona Senate passed the bill in March, but the House of Representatives tabled it. Assuming that Republicans will gain seats in the November mid-term elections, Tancredo predicted the bill would pass in 2011. However, Republican Jan Brewer would also need to win reelection in a tight race against Democratic opponent Attorney General Terry Goddard for the bill to be signed in to law.