States Request 'Impact Aid' for Alien Students
Asserting that the issue is a "national concern," officials from Texas, Colorado, and California last week testified before a House education subcommittee on the merits of a bill that would provide federal impact aid to school districts educating the children of legal and illegal aliens.
The subject of just who will be responsible for the costs of educating legal and illegal alien children has received increased attention since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that a Texas law permitting school districts to charge tuition for educating illegal alien children, or to refuse to educate them, violated the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
Texas was the only state that had passed such a law.
The Alien Education Impact Aid Act--introduced last October by Rep. E. (Kika) de la Garza, Democrat of Texas--would provide $450 per year for each alien child enrolled in local school districts.
Mr. de la Garza's bill would also provide special assistance to districts with more than 500 alien students or an alien student population totaling 5 percent or more of the student body--$750 per student in the first year, $500 in the second, and $350 in the third.
Senator John G. Tower, Republi-
can of Texas, also plans to introduce legislation to provide aid through an impact-aid formula to school districts with significant numbers of alien children, but an aide to Senator Tower said last week that specifics of the bill were still being worked out.
Mr. de la Garza told the Subcommittee on Elementary, Secondary, and Vocational Education that the affected states are asking the federal government to pay a "small part" of the cost of educating such children. The Texas Education Agency, he said, calculates the cost of educating the state's estimated 25,000 illegal alien students to be $2,500 per child--a $62.5 million financial burden to the state.
The federal government is responsible for part of this cost "because of the failure to develop or enforce existing immigration policies and because immigrant students place a disproportionate burden on existing school facilities," Mr. de la Garza said.
Mr. de la Garza used the Brownsville Independent School District--a part of his own congressional district--as an example of the impact Hispanic migration has on school districts in the country, particularly those on the American-Mexican border.
During the 1980-81 school year, the district enrolled a total of 2,641 legal and illegal alien students. He said that because Brownsville has a higher percentage of its population in school, yet generates less taxable wealth than "the average community," increased numbers of aliens, who usually pay only sales taxes, would provide an additional strain.
He was unable to estimate what his bill would cost the federal government if passed, Mr. de la Garza said, because there are no accurate estimates of the number of aliens in the nation's schools.
Raymon L. Bynum, Commissioner of Education in Texas, said that dissenting Justices in the 5-4 Plyler v. Doe decision--and Justice Lewis F. Powell in his concurring opinion--indicated that the expense of educating alien children should be borne, in part at least, by the federal government.
Mr. Bynum said that the number of alien children in the state will continue to grow by 5,000 to 8,000 per year.
Charles M. Cooke, federal coordinator for the California Department of Education, said his state would not benefit from Mr. de la Garza's proposal as it currently exists because of a state law that forbids making distinctions between children of aliens (legal or illegal) and children of citizens.
Arvin C. Blome, executive assistant for federal relations in the Colorado Department of Education, also testified in favor of the bill.