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Friday, December 14 , 2018, 5:15 am | Fair 50º


Joe Guzzardi: Money for Illegal Immigrants Compounds California’s Education Failures

State Supreme Court upholds tuition discounts, at a cost to taxpayers of more than $200 million a year

One of the cruelest ironies in California’s never-ending budget crisis is how the public school system has been brought to its knees while funding for illegal alien students, provided by citizen taxpayers, becomes ever more generous.

Joe Guzzardi
Joe Guzzardi

The California Supreme Court decision last week in Martinez vs. Regents of the University of California upheld AB 540, a 2002 law that allows unlawful aliens to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities if they had attended a California high school for at least three years and then graduated.

Although the Legislative Analyst’s Office calculates that California’s deficit will increase to $25.4 billion by June 2012, including a $6 billion shortfall in last month’s budget agreement, the Supreme Court approved tuition discounts, provided to about 25,000 illegal alien students a year, at a cost to state taxpayers of more than $200 million annually.

The Supreme Court preposterously reasoned that, because students must graduate from a California high school after a three-year minimum enrollment period, Americans from other states are not discriminated against. This tortured logic assumes that parents from the other 49 states might be emotionally willing to send their children to a California high school and are financially capable of absorbing the other costs involved for the three-year period such as room, board and living expenses.

The court’s decision also defied an existing federal law that prevents illegal aliens from getting benefits not available to citizens.

To make the Supreme Court’s ruling more incomprehensible, only days later, the University of California regents, citing rising costs and insufficient revenues, announced that tuition would increase next fall by 8 percent. Currently at UC, state residents pay $11,300 in tuition a year; nonresidents pay $34,000.

More madness: Even with a university diploma, federal law prohibits employers from hiring illegal aliens. E-verify, anyone?

Meanwhile, at the K-12 level, more than three decades of continuing increases in the student alien enrollment has lowered the overall quality of education to such a level that parents look toward private or home-schooling to prepare their children for college.

For example, the Lodi Unified School District where I taught for 25 years has, in an unprecedented move, canceled classes for the first three days of Thanksgiving week. Because of the district’s own budget shortfall, its teachers have been ordered to take mandated, unpaid furlough days. No makeup days have been scheduled.

What this means, obviously, is that any child attending a LUSD school will have three fewer days in the classroom, something most can’t academically afford.

Yet, money to educate illegal immigrants (or their children) is abundant.

Using statistics provided by the California Department of Education Web site, the Lodi Unified School District has a Hispanic enrollment of nearly 44 percent, or 11,665. Of that total, 28 percent, or 8,400 students, are classified as English-learners. Applying the conservative estimate of $7,500 per student per year to educate non-English speakers, the hit to taxpayers is more than $60 million — more than enough to offset the district’s 2010-11 shortfall, eliminate furlough days, put kids back into classroom for an entire scholastic year and possibly add back science and art to the curriculum.

The UC case isn’t over. Attorney Kris Kobach, the recently elected Kansas secretary of state who represented the plaintiffs, called the California Supreme Court ruling a “very weak opinion.” Kobach said he will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review it.

As for local school districts, reducing legal immigration, vigorous internal enforcement of existing immigration laws and vigilant border security are the first three steps to bring California education back to its once lofty standards.

— Joe Guzzardi has written editorial columns — mostly about immigration and related social issues — since 1990 and is a senior writing fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS). After 25 years as an English as a Second Language teacher in the Lodi Unified School District, Guzzardi has retired to Pittsburgh. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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