Tennessee School Voucher Plan Includes Illegal Immigrant Students
The Curriculum Testing and Innovation Subcommitteepassed Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s school voucher program by a voice vote onMarch 19. This program allows parents totake their children out of their current public school and enroll them in aprivate school or another public high school.
A Governor Bill Lee campaign ad asked “Whycan’t politicians stop illegal immigration?” and answered, “As a businessman,it seems pretty clear to me. It’s about incentives. Driver’s licenses and freetuition for illegal aliens, lawless sanctuary cities. All policies that wouldmake Tennessee a magnet for illegal immigration. I will oppose every one of themas governor.”
In a much-debated 1981 decision, Plyler v. Doe, the Supreme Court held that illegal alien children are entitled to a free public education as a matter of equal protection. As a result, public schools stopped asking about students’ immigration status and began treating all children exactly the same as U.S. citizens.
Despite his promise todry up incentives attracting illegal aliens to the United States, GovernorLee’s Education Savings Plan will inevitably provide school vouchers forillegal aliens.Vouchers use taxpayer funds and the Plylerholding discourages school systems from asking whether students are illegallyin the U.S. Therefore, taxpayer monies can and will be provided for vouchersfor illegal aliens.
Some might ask, why is this a big deal? If illegal aliens are here and entitled to attend public schools, how will this change anything? Here’s the problem – as FAIR noted in its 2017 study, The Fiscal Burden of Illegal Immigration on United States Taxpayers, most illegal alien households don’t pay enough taxes to cover the services they consume.
And, as FAIR found in its 2016 study, The Elephant in the Classroom: Mass Immigration’s Impact on Public Education, mainly due to unchecked mass migration, nearly one in every ten students enrolled in public schools are designated as “Limited English Proficiency” learners, whose first language is not English. That means taxpaying U.S. citizens and lawfully present immigrants are shouldering a significant share of the costs associated with educating illegal aliens – many of whom require expensive English as a Second Language instruction.
Most school systems fund at least a portion of their operations with a value-based real estate tax. Illegal aliens frequently inhabit the lower end of the income spectrum and don’t own property. Therefore, their contributions to school funding are typically lower than those made by their legal alien or U.S. citizen peers. However, school voucher programs usually pay out a standardized sum, per child, rather than being based on actual tax contributions.
As a result, illegal aliens catch a windfall from school voucher programs, because they end up collecting more money than they paid into the system whenever they receive school vouchers. The same may be true for poorer lawfully present immigrants and cash-strapped U.S. citizens. But most Americans don’t have a problem with their tax dollars lending a hand to those entitled to be in the U.S.
However, they also believe that those who violate our immigration laws should not be entitled to public benefits. And when American schools are struggling with everything from gang violence to plummeting test scores, average Americans particularly resent being asked to fund private education for school-aged-citizens of foreign countries, who have no right to be here.
Based on the Plyler decision, illegal alien children may have a “right” to afree public education. However, those who are unlawfully residing in the UnitedStates have no right to expect to be allowed to attend any school they choose,including private institutions, with taxpayers kicking in a sizeable share ofthe tuition. If taxpayer- subsidized education in America’s high-quality privateschools is not an incentive for would-be illegals to violate our immigrationlaws, we don’t know what is.