PHOENIX — The school season is just beginning and that means even undocumented children must be allowed a public education.
But the “access for all” philosophy runs the risk of bankrupting the state, according to John Huppenthal, state superintendent of public instruction.
Huppenthal made headlines recently when he announced he was planning on sending a bill to the federal government for approximately 200 undocumented Arizona students. He claimed it would cost the state about $1 million extra to educate those children.
“We know that there are 200 [undocumented students], that’s where the million dollars comes from, but very likely, we’re looking at a number in the neighborhood of 5,000 [undocumented students], which would be a $25 million impact,” he told News/Talk 92.3 KTAR Thursday.
He said the 200 number was confirmed by the federal government but admitted the 5,000 figure was a “very rough estimate,” blaming the Obama administration for a lack of transparency on the undocumented migrants issue.
“The question is how many additional students that were bused into Arizona or that came through from Central America directly to Arizona?” he asked.
He added it won’t take long to determine the exact number of undocumented students are sitting in state classrooms.
“With all the improvements we’ve made in our data systems, we now have 40-day reports within a week of the 40th day,” he explained. “We also have on-time 100-day reports, so we will get very accurate data there.”
While not exactly waiting by the mailbox for a check to come in, he said the state of Arizona has a good track record when it comes to working with the federal government.
“We had a lot of students that were coming across the border and attending Arizona schools illegally, and we had to do a series of enforcement actions there,” he said. “We were able to return $1 million to Arizona taxpayers, so we have a track record of being successful at taking care of things like this.”