Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Kansas Rep. Wants to Track Students’ Immigration Status

A Kansas state representative wants to begin asking children who enroll in public schools for proof of citizenship or legal presence in the United States.

Republican Rep. Allan Rothlisberg said that he wants to track how much money is spent on educating undocumented immigrants.

Even if he is successful, the 1982 Plyler v. Doe decision concluded that all children are entitled to a free public education, no matter their status. Rothlisberg said he is aware that schools must follow the law.

However, he told the Garden City Telegram: “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. It’s being diverted to people who are in this country illegally.” 

However, some Kansas school officials are worried that asking for such documents could have a chilling impact on Hispanic families — making them fearful to enroll their children in the school system.

School superintendent Rick Atha of USD 457 said such a bill concerned him. He told the Telegram, “… 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.”

Atha added, “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.” 

School districts do ask families for documentation to establish residency within district boundaries.