A mean streak a yard wide runs through the hearts of way too many conservatives in the Kansas House of Representatives.
Monday they voted to repeal a 2004 law that would allow students whose parents brought them into the U.S. when they were children to pay in-state tuition at a state university or college if they have graduated from a Kansas high school and will guarantee that they will seek citizenship when they complete their education.
Supporters say the law should be repealed because it grants a privilege to an undocumented person in violation of federal law. It is unfair, they add, because other undocumented persons don’t have the same privilege and must pay the much higher out-of-state tuition.
An argument against repeal was made by Rep. Mario Goico. Goico fled his native Cuba after the Bay of Pigs invasion failed in 1961. Under preferential laws he joined the U.S. Air Force and became a U.S. citizen at 23. He spent seven and a half years earning a B.S. degree in engineering and told his fellow legislators he knows how much education means to a person who is trying to make something of himself against the odds.
He capped his argument with the observation that “This law hurts no one be-cause it’s not a giveaway.”
THAT’S THE KEY. This is an all-win, no-lose benefit. The youngsters who qualify don’t get any benefit their fellow Kansas high school school mates don’t also get. Their “benefit” is to be allowed to pay full tuition at any of the 32 institutions governed by the Kansas Board of Regents —including the 19 community colleges.
Because of their status, they are not eligible for public grants or financial aid — no Pell Grants — as their classmates are, but can receive private scholarships.
It is true that the state would come out ahead if they paid out-of-state rates — it is also true that many, probably most, would not be able to pay the thousands of dollars more each semester that out-of-staters pay. Immigrant families with school-age children are frequently poor families. It is therefore a phony argument to say that the law cheats the state out of a significant amount of money.
The law affects a small number of students. This year, for example, only 413 are enrolled under the program.
REP. GOICO told his fellow legislators that education made a big difference to his life — and believes it would also make a positive difference to the lives of the youngsters who came to this country in their parents’ arms, have been raised as Americans and would contribute more to America if they get as much education as they can profit from.
The 2004 law the Kansas Legislature passed is based on sound social morals. It recognizes that those who benefit from it did not make the decision to come into the U.S. illegally and concludes that visiting the sins of the parents onto their offspring is not the American way. The law also recognizes the value of education and concludes that the State of Kansas benefits when more of its residents complete higher education degrees.
Today the law is allowing 413 students to attend Kansas universities and colleges who might not be there otherwise, which means that those colleges and universities are receiving thousands of dollars in tuition and fees from them in this tight budget year.
If Monday’s mean-spirited action is confirmed and the bill goes to the Senate, the senior body should drive a stake through its heart, burn it and bury the ashes too deep for evil to rise from them again.