Russell Pearce Bill Requiring Schools to Count Illegal Students Gets Through Committee

State Senator Russell Pearce wants to challenge a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision requiring public school districts to educate every student within its borders despite their immigration status. The first step in his plan was approved yesterday by the Senate Committee on Education Accountability and Reform.

SB 1097 would require school districts to count how many illegal immigrants are attending their school in what Pearce calls a fact-finding mission.

Pearce wants to see just how much money illegal students are costing taxpayers to justify his endgame: kicking illegal students out of public schools.

Good thinking -- the illegal students are already here, why not make sure they're as uneducated as possible, too, right?

The Pew Hispanic Center estimated several years ago that the annual cost of educating illegal immigrants is about $650 million.

Pearce tells Capitol Media Services he thinks that number is low and the actual cost is anywhere from $800 million to $1.5 billion.

Groups like the ACLU fear that the bill will prevent students -- who are legally entitled to an education -- from going to school out of fear that their immigration status would be discovered and they would be rounded up and shipped out of the country.

Dan Pochoda, legal director of the Arizona chapter of the ACLU, tells CMS that if the Pearce bill becomes law, his organization will sue the state.

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