Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Bill would require Kansas to count and report undocumented public school students

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

TOPEKA, KAN.  — A legislator has filed a bill that would require the state to count and report how many undocumented children are in Kansas public schools.

State Rep. Allan Rothlisberg, R-Grandview Plaza, said Tuesday that House Bill 2521 was aimed at raising awareness about the amount of taxpayer money spent on educating children who are here illegally.

“I would prefer we spend tax dollars on citizens and not on illegal aliens,” he said.

Under the bill, whenever a child enrolls for the first time in a public school, the school board shall request “presentation of proof of lawful presence.” This could be a birth certificate or Social Security card or other document.

The State Department of Education would then publish on its website the number of children who failed to provide the proof, and the average per pupil school finance cost.

Rothlisberg said the bill wouldn’t deny a child who fails to provide proof of lawful presence from enrolling in school.

And the information would have to be published in a way that doesn’t identify a specific child, he said.

Sunflower Community Action, which works on immigration and education issues, criticized the bill.

“This is no more than another attempt at intimidation and harassment,” said Sulma Arias, executive director of Sunflower Community Action.

“This time, these acts of cowardice are directed at our children,” she said. “In a state like ours, which is proud of our immigrant history, we should keep in mind the outstanding contributions that immigrant students who have attended Kansas public schools have made and continue to make to our state.”

In 2011, Alabama enacted a measure requiring school administrators to determine the immigration status of all newly enrolling students and to submit an annual report to the state Board of Education, but a federal appeals court blocked that measure.

A 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision grants the children of people who are here illegally a free public education.