Discussing Immigration Reform in Schools
Public school officials told the committee on Thursday there are ways for immigrants to go to school, even if they don't have proper documentation. One state representative said that's why lawmakers created the Special Committee on Immigration Reform.
"Right now, this is a very high-profile issue," said Republican Rep. Ed Emery of Lamar. "There is a lot of concern out there. There's concern on both sides."
Education officials said the federal government does not require elementary schools to ask for citizenship or residency status when enrolling students. In fact, just the opposite is true.
"There is guidance from the federal government not to seek to determine whether a student is a documented citizen or not," said Bert Schulte, commissioner of elementary and secondary schools.
Under federal and state law, elementary and secondary schools are required only to provide a free and appropriate public education.
"State law in Missouri requires the public to educate everyone, whether they are illegal or not illegal," said Jim Kellerman of the Missouri Community College Association.
Illegal immigrants who graduate from Missouri high schools can enter community colleges in the state because community colleges require only a high school diploma.
School officials said they hope the committee can change the system, but they don't expect anything drastic. Officials also said they fear any new state legislation may stop legal international students from attending their schools.