Tennessee School Voucher Plan Includes Illegal Immigrant Students



The Curriculum Testing and Innovation Subcommittee passed Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s school voucher program by a voice vote on March 19.  This program allows parents to take their children out of their current public school and enroll them in a private school or another public high school.

A Governor Bill Lee campaign ad asked “Why can’t politicians stop illegal immigration?” and answered, “As a businessman, it seems pretty clear to me. It’s about incentives. Driver’s licenses and free tuition for illegal aliens, lawless sanctuary cities. All policies that would make Tennessee a magnet for illegal immigration. I will oppose every one of them as governor.”

In a much-debated 1981 decision, Plyler v. Doe, the Supreme Court held that illegal alien children are entitled to a free public education as a matter of equal protection. As a result, public schools stopped asking about students’ immigration status and began treating all children exactly the same as U.S. citizens.

Despite his promise to dry up incentives attracting illegal aliens to the United States, Governor Lee’s Education Savings Plan will inevitably provide school vouchers for illegal aliens. Vouchers use taxpayer funds and the Plyler holding discourages school systems from asking whether students are illegally in the U.S. Therefore, taxpayer monies can and will be provided for vouchers for illegal aliens.

Some might ask, why is this a big deal? If illegal aliens are here and entitled to attend public schools, how will this change anything? Here’s the problem – as FAIR noted in its 2017 study, The Fiscal Burden of Illegal Immigration on United States Taxpayers, most illegal alien households don’t pay enough taxes to cover the services they consume.

And, as FAIR found in its 2016 study, The Elephant in the Classroom: Mass Immigration’s Impact on Public Education, mainly due to unchecked mass migration, nearly one in every ten students enrolled in public schools are designated as “Limited English Proficiency” learners, whose first language is not English. That means taxpaying U.S. citizens and lawfully present immigrants are shouldering a significant share of the costs associated with educating illegal aliens – many of whom require expensive English as a Second Language instruction.

Most school systems fund at least a portion of their operations with a value-based real estate tax. Illegal aliens frequently inhabit the lower end of the income spectrum and don’t own property. Therefore, their contributions to school funding are typically lower than those made by their legal alien or U.S. citizen peers. However, school voucher programs usually pay out a standardized sum, per child, rather than being based on actual tax contributions.

As a result, illegal aliens catch a windfall from school voucher programs, because they end up collecting more money than they paid into the system whenever they receive school vouchers. The same may be true for poorer lawfully present immigrants and cash-strapped U.S. citizens. But most Americans don’t  have a problem with their tax dollars lending a hand to those entitled to be in the U.S.

However, they also believe that those who violate our immigration laws should not be entitled to public benefits. And when American schools are struggling with everything from gang violence to plummeting test scores, average Americans particularly resent being asked to fund private education for school-aged-citizens of foreign countries, who have no right to be here.

Based on the Plyler decision, illegal alien children may have a “right” to a free public education. However, those who are unlawfully residing in the United States have no right to expect to be allowed to attend any school they choose, including private institutions, with taxpayers kicking in a sizeable share of the tuition. If taxpayer- subsidized education in America’s high-quality private schools is not an incentive for would-be illegals to violate our immigration laws, we don’t know what is.

About Author

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Jennifer joined FAIR as Web Content Writer in 2017 and brings to the role extensive communications and media background. She began her career as a policy research analyst on multiple national and state political campaigns before entering journalism. In addition to spending over a decade writing for several broadcast and print news outlets, Jennifer directed communications strategy for a member of Congress and a military nonprofit.

3 Comments

  1. avatar

    Last I Heard the Federal Tax Payer Gets Billed About $10K/YR Per Public Student in America

    That’s not chicken scratch folks…its a horrifying cost that makes the $5B WALL cost look like a complete joke….no wonder public school personnel are most Open Border Party (OBP) hypocrites like their twin profession, the HORRIFYING DELUGE and federal tax costs of immigration attorneys and judges. These greedy “high paid” professionals use partisan tactics to hold a stable job in a wage distressed NWO America.

  2. avatar

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  3. avatar

    This whole problem can be solved by deporting them and their families. Although they are entitled to an education while here, there is nothing that says it gives them any protection against being deported. The media is always willing to point out how we have fallen behind so many countries as far as education levels, but they never mention the strain put on our schools by bilingual education. It costs more and it holds back the English speaking students who would otherwise advance but must wait for their fellow classmates to catch up. The teachers in Los Angles complain about over-crowded classes and low teacher salaries, but not for one minute will they acknowledge how the open border policies they support are the main problem.

    Beto O’Rourke is back to his tear down the walls mantra. How does anyone take these people seriously. A 46 year old man riding a skateboard. He also supports the “Green New Deal”, an idea so colossally preposterous that anyone supporting it, and many Democratic presidential candidates are, is an idiot or simply trying to get votes from leftists who flock to such nonsense.

    It would cost an estimated 60 to 90 trillion dollars and would require the restructuring of every single building in the country. But it ignores the fact that it would do nothing to stop pollution from China which is by far the biggest polluter now. And a lot of “record high” temperatures have a lot to do with the rise of mega-cities world wide and in this country, which has created “heat islands”. Phoenix for example. A population of 100,000 in 1950 and now 1.7 million. All those concrete buildings and roads hold heat and have raised average nighttime temps by almost 10 degrees. But liberals say let’s allow ever more immigration. Just more of their clueless contradictory thinking.