Brief Fact Summary. Pursuant to a Texas law, a local school district conditioned the enrollment in its schools of the children of illegal aliens on their payment of a “tuition fee.” The constitutionality of the statute was brought into question.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The denial of the free public education to the children of undocumented aliens within a state’s borders must be justified by a showing that such denial substantially furthers a substantial state interest.
Issue. By which standard of review should the courts evaluate the alienage-based classification at issue?
Was the policy of denying free public education to the children of undocumented aliens consistent with the mandates of equal protection?
Held. Intermediate level scrutiny and no.
Although public education is not a “right” guaranteed by the United States Constitution, it is neither some mere “governmental benefit” indistinguishable from other forms of social welfare. An education is preservative of rights guaranteed by the Constitution and necessary to participate fully in our free democratic style of government.
Appellants failed to prove that the classification bore a substantial relation to a substantial state interest. The classification cannot be said to substantially further the State interest of preserving social service resources. By denying public education to certain children within its borders, the State will create a subclass of illiterates, thereby causing a drain on State social resources. Moreover, Appellees have not been shown to be less likely to remain in the State than other children. Therefore, the classification cannot be justified on the grounds that it singles out children who will not put their State supported educations to productive use within the State.
The existence of such an underclass presents most difficult problems for a Nation that prides itself on adherence to principles of equality under law.View Full Point of Law