Teacher's Desk: Tuition Break Nada

There’s a personal angle when I read a story like the one today about 20 colleges and universities asking the federal government to allow illegal immigrants in-state tuition rates. I know three high school seniors where I teach whom this would help. Two of the students are special education students who will probably limit their post-secondary experiences to a certificate program at Emily Griffith Opportunity School, and the third has decided to attend college in Mexico. Even though I enjoy these students and know the parents of the young ladies well, I cannot condone illegal trafficking of human beings, nor the additional pressure placed on our infrastructure and natural resources by those who immigrate illegally.

Because I try to be kind while still holding this opinion, I gave the three families the business card of the immigration attorney upstairs, and one of the parents made an appointment. It was the same mother who had asked me to adopt her 21-year-old daughter, but she was going to pay for her needs. Fortunately, I had an easy out; we don’t legally adopt 21-year-olds! But that got me wondering what other illegal activities these folks who I felt were generally good people willing to do?

Obviously, they drive without licenses, do not buy car insurance, and many don’t have health insurance, so they use the emergency rooms at hospitals. Those same hospitals are required to have Spanish interpreters.

Per Texas case law, our schools are required to educate the legal and illegal alike, and unless the parents of these children are homeowners, we’re the ones who pay for it. We teach the children English, but until they grasp the language, it will be awhile before they are reading and writing at grade level. We hire staff to teach in Spanish. We hire teachers to test in Spanish. We provide interpreters for Spanish speaking parents. All this costs thousands of dollars to every school. Thousands of dollars that is no longer available for the general student population.

If we allow illegal students to attend our state colleges and universities at in-state tuition rates, the influx of Spanish speaking only college students will rise and costly services will likely be provided to them. We do not do the same for students with other native languages. We will become the destination for those who trespass our borders.

Kathleen Kullback is a licensed special educator with an M. A. in educational leadership and is a former candidate for the Colorado State Board of Education.