Senate Democrats Monday quashed a proposal that would have required Colorado schools to count undocumented immigrant students and report the number to the government.
The plan came as an amendment to House Bill 1171 and was proposed by conservative Colorado Springs Sen. Dave Schultheis, who said his amendment was simply about fact-finding. “There are lots of guesses, but no actual data on how many Colorado students are U.S. citizens or illegal residents.”
Democratic lawmakers seemed to believe Schultheis was being coy. They said his proposal sounded like a first step on the path toward discrimination, especially in conjunction with a second amendment he put forward aimed at allowing illegal immigrant children or the children of illegal immigrants to skip the state’s standardized CSAP tests.
“This will raise the CSAP of schools. I think that this would answer a couple of questions [on performance], questions that I am concerned with and that I believe all of our schools are concerned with.”
Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, was aghast.
“I could not disagree more with Senator Schultheis’s amendments. Nothing could be more discriminating than both of these amendments. I vehemently ask for a no vote,” he said.
Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver agreed.
“I don’t think the place to start the [CSAP] debate is by discriminating against individuals based on their immigration status. I disagree with Senator Schultheis that a school’s CSAP score would rise necessarily [if illegal immigrants didn’t take it]. That is an assumption on your part that I don’t know is warranted or not.”
Schultheis argued that his immigrant-counting amendment would simply help the state efficiently allocate funds, including sending more money to schools that serve illegal immigrant student populations.
“You’re saying this is not necessary, but it is impacting in a huge way the funding that we need to provide. And in fact this amendment is necessary so that we can allocate the proper funding to those schools that are stressed, if you will, in trying to educate those individuals.”
Schultheis said he wanted only to gather data that would allow the Department of Education to accurately compute how much the state spends to educate illegal immigrants. He put the figure at hundreds of millions of dollars but said it was impossible to know for sure.
“School budgets are stretched to the limit,” he said. “We’re only trying to get resources where they’re most needed.”
Schultheis has made his position on illegal immigration clear over the years. “I am totally committed to eliminating the negative effects of illegal aliens on the Citizens of Colorado,” he writes at his website. “In recent years the influx of illegal aliens from many countries, primarily from Mexico is negatively affecting nearly all areas of our society.”
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1982 that the state is required to educate all children regardless of their resident status.
With additional reporting by Joe Boven from the Senate chamber.