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Foreign Currency

Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida has suggested that wealthy foreigners who come to soak up the rays in the Sunshine State ought to pack tuition money along with their sunscreen.

Gov. Jeb Bush

In an off-the-cuff remark to reporters before a Jan. 25 meeting of community college presidents, Gov. Bush commented that the children of well-to-do families who come to Florida from other countries for part of the year and enroll in public schools may be a burden on the school system.

"Should we not suggest maybe that there ought to be a payment of some kind to go to a world- class education system?" the governor said, suggesting that foreign families of means be charged tuition for using public schools.

But critics said that the concept—which an aide to Mr. Bush characterized as "just an idea that's brewing"—would be nearly impossible to carry out, as schools would not have a way of checking on the immigration status of students.

"We don't green-card our students," said Wayne Blanton, the executive director of the Florida School Boards Association. "It's not our job."

Furthermore, Mr. Blanton said, a "great majority" of the thousands of new immigrant students who enrolled in Florida schools last year are hardly children of wealth, but rather from poor families from Haiti and Central and South America.

Other education experts noted that the state's constitution requires a free public education for "all children residing within its borders."

Still, Commissioner of Education Charlie Christ said that policymakers should not be too quick to dismiss the governor's idea.

"We have an obligation or duty to educate Florida residents, whether they be long-standing residents or immigrants," Mr. Christ said. "But transients or tourists, if you will, may be a different circumstance."

—Jessica L. Sandham

Vol. 20, Issue 21, Page 14

Published in Print: February 7, 2001, as State Journal

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