Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Thursday that he is considering challenging a law that allows all children, regardless of their legal status, to attend public schools for free.
In 1982, the Supreme Court ruled that illegal immigrant children have the constitutional right to attend public school for free in a decision known as Plyer v. Doe. The high court made the ruling after schools in Tyler, Texas tried to charge such children a $1,000 tuition.
“Plyer is a 40-year-old decision that dealt with immigration in the state of Texas that was extremely different than it is now,” Abbott said at a press conference in Houston.
Abbott said Texas was mostly seeing Mexican immigration then, and there was only the need to teach the Spanish language at schools in the state.
Now, Abbott said, Texas is seeing immigrants from 105 different countries who speak dozens of languages and the cost to hire teachers would present a burden on state taxpayers.
The governor said it costs the state of Texas about $7,500 per child annually, but the cost would be greater for immigrant children who need special instruction.
“That leads to education obligations, as well as other obligations that are simply unsustainable and unaffordable. It should be the federal government, not the state of Texas, footing this bill,” said Abbott.
In the Plyler case, four immigrant families were represented by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, who had a swift reaction to Abbott’s intent to challenge the law.
“Greg Abbott has once more distinguished himself as one of our most irresponsible and desperate politicians. The Plyler decision, he said, is firmly established by the court and has also been endorsed by Congress,” Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of MALDEF, said in a statement.
But since the Supreme Court is seemingly willing to overturn established legal precedent by ending federal protection for Roe v. Wade, according to a leaked memo, Abbott signaled the court could be taking a fresh look at other legal precedents.
Of the Supreme Court’s upcoming decision on abortion, Abbott said the court should not wait to get its ruling out.
“I strongly urge the court to get that decision out this week. Don’t wait around and don’t allow the bullying to occur on the streets whether it be in front of the Supreme Court or around the United States. Get the decision out now. The public has seen it. Get it out,” said Abbott.