Illegal Immigrants Are Eligible For A State-Funded Program That Allows Students To Attend Private School

Neetu Chandak | Education and Politics Reporter

A school choice group is informing Spanish-speaking parents that students can attend private schools in Arizona through a state-funded program, regardless of immigration status.

The Arizona Federation for Children, a project of the American Federation for Children, gave a pitch in Spanish urging parents to check if their children qualified for state funds, according to The Arizona Republic on Monday.

“Arizona has a state-funded program that pays for private schools for thousands of children who live in this state,” the pitch said in Spanish. “They don’t verify income or immigration status. Children don’t need to have or maintain certain grades. These funds cover tuition fees for private schools, tutors, uniforms and more!”

The state funds come through the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA), an account administered by The Arizona Department of Education. (RELATED: Texas School District Prepping To Send Teachers To Migrant Shelters)

Students must have attended public school for 100 days in the previous school year and either come from a D or F-rated public school, has special needs, resides on tribal land, is in the foster care system or has an active family member in the military, according to a spokesman from the Arizona Federation for Children.

“We seek to empower all eligible Arizona families with the knowledge of what they can choose so that their child can leave their zoned, poor-performing school,” the spokesman told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

The spokesman justified the organization’s move by citing the 1982 Supreme Court case Plyler v. Doe, which allows illegal immigrant children to receive state funding for public education. The ESA, however, can also be used to switch students to private or home schooling education, according to the Arizona Department of Education’s website.

The spokesman added that they were not specifically targeting illegal immigrant families. They wrote the pitch in Spanish because many of the schools were predominantly in Hispanic areas where families may only speak Spanish.

Federal law does not allow the state to ask about immigration status, The Republic reported.

Republican state Sen. John Kavanagh disagreed with ESA funding going toward illegal immigrants.

“We passed ESA to promote good education, not illegal immigration,” he said, The Republic reported.

ESA was originally for children with disabilities when it was first passed in 2011.

Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation to expand ESA eligibility to all 1.1 million public school students in the state on April 6, 2017, according to The Republic. The number of students who could receive the funding, however, was capped at 30,000.

Voters will get to decide in the November election whether the expansion of the program can stay in the state, The Republic reported on March 21.

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