The Washington Post

A Kansas lawmaker wants the state to count undocumented schoolchildren


(Sarah L. Voisin / The Washington Post)

A new Kansas bill would require the state to count and document schoolchildren who can’t provide proof of legal residence.

Under the bill, introduced by Rep. Allan Rothlisberg (R), school boards would be required to request such proof whenever a child first enrolls in public school in the state. Failure to provide the necessary documentation would not disqualify a child from enrolling, but it would be documented and reported to the state Department of Education, which would in turn publish online the number of such children and their average cost to the state. 

“I would prefer we spend tax dollars on citizens and not on illegal aliens,” Rothlisberg said, according to the Lawrence Journal-World.

In a 1982 ruling, the Supreme Court denied Texas’s right to withhold education funding from school districts that educated the children of undocumented immigrants.

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 Web site the number of children who failed to provide the proof, and the average per pupil school finance cost. The Fourteenth Amendment grants such children the right to an education, the majority of justices found.

“[W]hatever savings might be achieved by denying these children an education, they are wholly insubstantial in light of the costs involved to these children, the State, and the Nation,” they wrote in their majority opinion.

Last year, Colorado, Minnesota, New Jersey and Oregon passed laws that take an opposing approach to the issue, granting in-state tuition to unauthorized immigrant students. Now 15 states, including Kansas, have agreed to do so through legislation, according to the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures.

Niraj Chokshi is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post.

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