While Gov. Sam Brownback has been blasted for the state’s current budget fiasco — and for good reason — he has been sensible on some fronts.
One would be regarding a policy that allows children of undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition to attend college after graduating from high school.
A decade has passed since the Legislature rightly decided any student who had lived in the state at least three years and graduated from a Kansas high school could qualify for in-state tuition, so long as they worked toward citizenship.
Our Republican governor recently said he wasn’t interested in seeing attempts to change the policy in the coming legislative session, which begins Jan. 12.
Unfortunately, we’d still expect talk from Brownback’s far-right allies to center on ways to undo the law — along with the usual tired arguments tied to immigration, such as the claim that undocumented immigrants are nothing more than a drain on society.
Brownback noted in-state tuition should be part of broader immigration policy decided by Congress, and not individual states. Still, the question is what traction Kansas could gain in addressing a related situation in pressing labor needs.
Rural Kansas in particular knows there’s a need for such policies as allowing ag-related businesses to hire undocumented immigrants for jobs they have trouble filling.
Instead of revisiting Kansas’ in-state tuition law — one that’s made a difference for many students in Garden City and beyond — legislators would better serve Kansas by trying to grasp the economic realities and labor challenges for agriculture and other employers.
Our local and area lawmakers have to help their legislative peers understand the economic impact of immigrant labor — as well as the importance of educational opportunities for all high school graduates hoping to make positive contributions.
Kansas has long depended on contributions of immigrants here legally and otherwise. With the in-state tuition policy, more young students without legal status — a situation they should want to address — have the same reasonable access to college as their fellow high school graduates, and are becoming productive members of society.
Erasing an in-state tuition policy that made such progress possible only would be a step backward.