The column below originally ran on the subscription news and opinion website Insider Advantage Georgia and is posted here with permission.
“Lacking language that excluded illegal immigrants from this “driver’s seat” position, had the bills passed, Georgia Republicans would have created a system in which illegal alien parents/guardians had authority to distribute and directly manage taxpayer funds for a private school education for their illegal alien children.”
By Inger Eberhart
Inger Eberhart is Communications Director and a member of the advisory board of the Georgia-based Dustin Inman Society
One of the first things I learned in my years as an occasional citizen lobbyist under the Gold Dome was that one should not accept the hype or the “trust us” narrative on any legislation unless and until you actually read the bill. As the old adage goes, “the devil is in the details.”
That advice should be taken to heart by voters who are understandably clamoring for legislative financial help in moving their children from the public K-12 school system and the legislators and conservative groups pushing for “school choice” in Georgia.
Another hard-earned lesson in judging the worth of legislation is to keep a firm grasp on reality while all about you are howling for quick passage of what seems to be a “popular” bill.
Some too-often ignored reality in Georgia is that Border Patrol agents and other law enforcement officers encountered roughly 2.5 million illegal aliens in the fiscal year that just ended September 30 — smashing the previous record of 1.7 million set last year.
More reality: For a large share of these illegal border crossers, Georgia is a very popular destination. We are already home to more illegal aliens than live in Arizona.
School choice is a solid idea. Encouraging and rewarding illegal immigration into Georgia with offers of a taxpayer-financed private K-12 school education isn’t. The former does not have to include the latter.
In the fiscal year ended September 30, at least 266,000 unaccompanied migrant children/minors have been encountered at the southern border, per U.S. Customs & Border Protection agency data. That’s almost enough to fill up UGA’s Sanford Stadium three times. Jessica Vaughan at the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington tells us that about 80% of the minors are placed with family members who are already living here illegally – including in Georgia.
A 2013 study of the motivation of illegal immigrants in choosing U.S. locations as migration destinations (“Why we stay…”) from University of Wisconsin researchers reported that illegal immigrants consistently cite superior American schools as a key reason for remaining in the United States.
In the 2021-2022 General Assembly, three separate “school choice” bills were introduced by Republican sponsors. HB 60 and HB 999 were stopped in the House committee process and SB 601 was defeated on the floor when the vote came for final passage. None of them had genuine, effective, or workable language to exclude illegal alien students or families from accessing the taxpayer funded “Promise Scholarship” accounts set up for students.
The bills, products of model legislation from the open borders Cato Institute-linked American Federation for Children, set up accounts that could be used for private school tuition, private tutoring and homeschool co-ops. Advocates say the bills would have “put the parents in the driver’s seat…” Indeed.
The process of administering the tax dollars sent to “Promise Scholarship” accounts for the students would have been done by the parents or guardians. Further, the legislation set up an oversight committee process made up of parents who would have had the legal ability to decide on eligible scholarship expenses.
Lacking language that excluded illegal immigrants from this “driver’s seat” position, had the bills passed, Georgia Republicans would have created a system in which illegal alien parents/guardians had authority to distribute and directly manage taxpayer funds for a private school education for their illegal alien children. Not many thinking Georgians of any description can believe this “school choice” benefit would serve to deter illegal immigration into the Peach State.
A poll on the subject from the school choice advocacy group ‘GeorgiaCAN’ shows high favorable numbers on the “Promise Scholarship” concept described here, but the element of sending illegal immigrant children to private schools courtesy of Georgia taxpayers was not part of the survey.
We submit that the results of a voter poll with a simple question “do you favor the use of tax dollars to send illegal immigrant students to private school in Georgia?” would not be useful in selling most voters on any poorly written school choice legislation in the 2023-2024 General Assembly.
An August letter to the editor published in my hometown Cherokee Tribune from an independent conservative voter summed up the sentiment of a large swath of informed voters with “as a black, conservative American who votes Republican, it is impossible to express my own outrage that any politician would suggest that we increase the benefits already offered to illegals and thereby make Georgia even more attractive to the endless stream of illegals the GOP claims to want to stop.”
A 1982 Supreme Court decision, Plyler v Doe, requires states to offer K-12 public education to students regardless of immigration status. There is no law or ruling that creates a requirement for Georgia taxpayers to send illegal aliens to private school. Legislators with serious intent to pass “school choice” legislation should include common sense language that limits eligibility to U.S. citizens and green card holders.
Please read the entire column from Inger at Insider Advantage.