Citizenship status question causes Kansas kids concern
Kansas House Republican Allan Rothlisberg is proposing to track the citizenship status of public school students. This has Garden City–one of the state’s most diverse districts—concerned. The bill in question would make it mandatory for new children enrolling in the state’s public schools to submit proof of legal presence in the U.S. The districts would then be required to hand in yearly reports on the number of students enrolled without this proof.
Rothlisberg, of Grandview Plaza, is well aware that the Supreme Court ruled in 1982 that every student is entitled to public education regardless of their current citizenship status or even that of their parents. Nevertheless, he told The Garden City Telegram he would like to know just how much money Kansas is spending on children who are here illegally.
Census data shows that Garden City’s population includes at least 20 percent of the 27,000 residents were not born in the U.S. compared to approximately 6.5 percent for Kansas as a whole. Rothlisberg says: “What I’m trying to get across here is where our tax money is being diverted to. It’s not going to our children or grandchildren.”
Rick Atha, Garden City superintendent, has his own concerns regarding the relationship between the district and the community. He feels asking questions about citizenship status would hurt the that relationship. He comments: “To do what I interpret this bill is asking school districts to do, we’re creating an uncomfortable environment for that child to go to school, by asking that information of whether or not the student is documented or undocumented.
We’re in the business of wanting to make kids and their parents feel welcome to come to school, that school is a safe place for them.” Atha noted that the district does require children wo enroll to present a rental agreement or utility bill to establish residence. They also require a copy of a child’s birth certificate to determine a decision-maker for the student.
He admits to not knowing how many of their students are actually illegally here. He claims that is “because we don’t track that information or ask for it. It’s irrelevant.”
Assistant superintendent Darren Dennis adds: that the district puts recently-arrived students in “newcomer classrooms” in which sometimes as many as 10 different languages are spoken. The district is includes nearly 44 percent “English language learners” He says “that’s different than immigrant.”
Rothlisberg does not believe the bill on citizenship status would do any harm to the district. He also does not consider it to be discriminatory because the bill would require every student to submit proof of “legal presence.” He concludes: “They feel alienated anyway because they know they’re here illegally. So, I mean, they already know they’re breaking the law.”
(Image courtesy of JCPost)