Gainesville school officials are once again asking state legislators to support in-state college tuition for all high school graduates regardless of their immigration status.
“There are existing policies that create barriers for some of Georgia’s most fragile students,” reads a statement in a draft of legislative priorities the school board is expected to approve in the coming weeks.
It is common for local government and school bodies to outline an agenda they would like lawmakers to address. The next session of the Georgia General Assembly kicks off in January.
The state can be critical in supporting local school initiatives, such as $13 million in previous support for Mundy Mill Academy and Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy to address overcrowding in elementary schools.
Board member Delores Diaz said it was important to seek in-state tuition for undocumented students, visa holders and other immigrants as a way to motivate them in high school to seek productive career and educational paths after they graduate.
“We are working so hard … especially with Hispanic students,” Diaz said, adding that this was a legislative priority last year, as well.
The fight for in-state tuition has made the rounds through Georgia courts over the last several years.
Just last month, the state Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s decision allowing recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program to get in-state tuition.
DACA students can receive work permits and have been given temporary exemption from deportation.
However, the Trump administration has announced that it plans to rescind the DACA program, begun in 2012 under President Barack Obama, in March.
Board member Sammy Smith said Gainesville has one of the most diverse student populations of any school district in the state, and that demographics alone warrant the board’s support for in-state tuition for all.
Moreover, the school district has a legal mandate to educate all students regardless of immigration status.
Other legislative priorities for the board include:
Supporting mid-term funding adjustments to support continued enrollment growth;
Continued funding for the charter system;
Enhanced collaboration between the school district and local colleges and universities to reduce barriers to dual enrollment programs;
Added support for workforce training and development of students
And support for bond packages that provide funding for additional resources, such as new construction and buses.