The Three Way Attack on Texas Public Education; Part Two: Immigration

by Dr. Jerry R. Burkett
Originally Published: July 17, 2011

Hispanics now make up 49 percent of the population of the State of Texas and account for 50 percent of the school age population.

When compared to the nation, Texas has 32 percent more Latinos. By stark comparison, the representation in the Texas Legislature is not 50 percent Hispanic. In fact, the few Latinos in the legislature have been working to see that the state is redistricted to represent more of the Hispanics that have entered our state, even suing the governor to see that the needs of this demographic group are met.

However, it would appear that the state legislature has a different agenda when considering our Latino growth that does not mirror opportunity or representation. Two major bills crossed through the Capitol building related to Hispanic growth and labeled through an effort on the State’s part to reform immigration, a Voter ID Bill and Sanctuary Cities Bill, were debated this legislative session.

The Voter ID bill passed the legislature and heads to Governor Perry’s desk. This law will simply require a photo ID to vote in any election. There will be 5 different types of IDs accepted: Texas driver’s license, Texas concealed handgun license, military photo card, U.S. passport, or election ID certificate (provided by the Texas Department of Public Safety without charge to those who do not have other acceptable ID cards). The Sanctuary Cities Bill, which did not pass this legislative session, would have prevented cities, counties and other governmental entities from adopting policies that prevent law enforcement officers or other employees from inquiring into the immigration status of a person arrested or lawfully detained. Authorities can subsequently report individuals to federal immigration officials if they are thought to be in the country illegally.

The discussion of Hispanic growth at the school level was not debated and discussed openly during session among lawmakers but it did occur on message boards, blogs, and other web portals. Early discussion of the topic, before the legislative session began, centered on a potential bill that would have required school districts to count the number of illegal immigrants entering our schools. Other thoughts on the topic considered requiring tuition for illegal immigrants, separate tax payments for apartment dwellers, the DREAM Act (which would subsidize education costs and grant amnesty to people 35 years old or younger who illegally entered the United States before they were 16 years of age), and simply preventing children of immigrants from attending school.

Here are some comments on the topic of illegal immigrants taken from only one website news article, copied exactly as they were submitted:

SE“I live along the border and any local resident, student, teacher can tell you our schools are flooded with illegals. They provide the school with a USA address and they’re in. There are 52 schools in the Brownsville school district!!! How does this not throw up a red flag? Until this problem is addressed we will always need more schools and more funding…and I know where it WON’T be coming from.”

James“Get the illegals out of our schools. I am tired of giving them a free ride.”

Les“i agree !!! the problem is our ckickens### government !!! tell the parent’s of these kid,s to come to the school and make sure the ins is there . ask for proof of citizenship !!! if not load them on buses and take them to the border !!”

Reeper–“For those yelling about illegal’s in school there is one easy way to get some out. Parent’s would have to pay an additional fee for each child they send to school to help give taxpayer’s who never had kids a break in taxes. $100/year/kid would be nice, remember you also get all those federal tax breaks the rest without kids don’t get if you are legal. The cost of my education was far less than it is today, so I’ve paid for my own education 10 fold, yet my parents had already paid for it. When schools first came about the kids education was paid by the parents and community.”

Clearly, fear, confusion, discontent, and hard feelings are exhibited in these comments. These frustrations are fueled by demands on our governments to be more fiscally responsible with the tax dollars they are given and to establish reforms of our immigration laws. Because states are limited in how they can respond to immigration, we are seeing various levels of resentment pertaining to our schools, our social programs, and our elections.

Certainly, our federal government does need to address the issue of illegal immigration and not only for national security reasons. Let me remind everyone reading this blog that we are bordered by two countries, one of which is longest unfortified border in the world: Canada. Furthermore, I would argue that the numerous drug cartels fueling Mexico’s drug trade serve a larger threat and problem for the United States than Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya combined.

But, our state constitution is clear on the issue of public education. The opening line of Article 7 states, “A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.”

In regards to textbooks, section 3 (b) states, “It shall be the duty of the State Board of Education to set aside a sufficient amount of available funds to provide free text books for the use of children attending the public free schools of this State. “

In addition, the 1973 federal IDEA law maintains that it is the responsibility of the states to provide, “free and appropriate education for all students.” This is backed by a Supreme Court ruling that does not allow a state to prevent a student from attending a public school due to their immigration status (Plyler v. Doe, 2003).

Throughout history, the State of Texas has worked to protect public education and the actions of the federal government often have done the same (Brown vs. Board of Education, IDEA, Civil Rights Act 1964, 1968). As we enter a new era of discontent with our government, it is clear that instead of taking action against public education, we should take actions for public education, even if they come with a cost. The entry of Latinos into the state does not present to me an opportunity for resentment, fear, or more laws to prevent progress, it presents a chance to embrace the rich heritage of a group that has worked to build and defend our state and to seek to expand the potential minds of young Hispanics who simply seek they same as their immigrant parents: opportunity.

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