The following press release, sent to me from the Oklahoma House of Representatives Media Division, contains welcome news:
OKLAHOMA CITY – State lawmakers have voted to require education officials to determine the number of illegal aliens in public schools and the taxpayer cost of educating those individuals.
“This is an important transparency and reporting requirement that is long overdue for our school system,” said state Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore. “For too long, policymakers have had to rely on guesswork and anecdotes to deal with this issue. It’s time we had concrete data.”
House Bill 3384, by Terrill, would require schools to determine the number of illegal alien students enrolled and the direct-and-indirect costs of educating them. The legislation would also require schools to determine the impact that added expense has on other services and programs for Oklahoma students.
A U.S. Supreme Court ruling requires the state to pay to educate illegal alien children.
“This legislation is not about defying that Supreme Court ruling,” Terrill said. “All we are seeking are accurate numbers. After all, you cannot develop good public policy without accurate data.”
It has been estimated that the cost of educating illegal aliens in public schools is $160 million per year, but Terrill noted that figure is more guesswork than true analysis.
Terrill said schools can request and collect data on citizenship status from students.
“The argument that we are prohibited from collecting that data is an urban legend,” Terrill said. “Federal law does not preclude ascertaining a student’s legal status. It just obligates the state to provide them with an education whether we want to or not.”
With renewed discussion of immigration reform at the federal level, it is more important than ever to determine the true costs to the state, Terrill said.
“Taxpayers have a right to know how much those so-called ‘reforms’ would cost us,” Terrill said.
In addition, he noted that certain media outlets routinely equate growth in Hispanic enrollment in Oklahoma schools with growth in illegal immigration.
“Just because someone is Hispanic does not make them an illegal alien,” Terrill said. “This legislation will help undermine that stereotype and reduce the mischaracterization of legal U.S. citizens.”
House Bill 3384 passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on a 71-26 vote. It now proceeds to the state Senate.