Prop 200 would not deny
education to K-12 students
Dec. 10, 2004
The advocates and the opponents of Proposition 200 disagreed about everything .
. . except that Proposition 200 does not apply to K-12 education. Regardless of
the status of children's families, as long as the children are in Arizona, we
will educate them. The children should not be on the streets; they should be in
school. Parents can send their children to school without worrying that this
will lead to immigration inquiries.
In May 1975, the Texas Legislature voted to withhold funding for the education
of children who were not "legally admitted" into the United States. The
constitutionality of this law came before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1981 in
Plyler vs. Doe.
By a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court held this law to be contrary to the
Constitution and, therefore, void.
The 14th Amendment to the Constitution provides that "no state shall . . . deny
to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." A
person whose presence in this country is unlawful is still a "person" under this
The court stated that persuasive arguments support the view that a state may
withhold benefits from those whose very presence within the United States is a
product of their own unlawful conduct. But the same arguments do not apply to
the minor children of such persons.
The denial of education to a group of children "poses an affront to one of the
goals of the Equal Protection Clause: the abolition of governmental barriers
presenting unreasonable obstacles to advancement on the basis of individual
merit." The court relied on an earlier decision that had held that "education
prepares individuals to be self-reliant and self-sufficient participants in
More recently, in 1995, in the case of League of United Latin American Citizens
vs. Wilson, a federal court held that law, as set forth in Plyler vs. Doe,
negated a provision in a state initiative that would have denied public
education to the children of the people not legally in this country. The same
reasoning would apply to Proposition 200.
This law is so well established that, as mentioned earlier, the supporters, as
well as the opponents, of Proposition 200 agree that it does not apply to K-12
education. No parent, regardless of that parent's legal status, should ever
hesitate to send a child to school.
Tom Horne is state superintendent of public instruction.