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Greg Abbott

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a press conference in Austin on May 18, 2020. (Photo: Lynda M. Gonzalez-Pool/Getty Images)

Texas GOP Governor Considers Challenging 1982 Ruling Requiring Free Public Education

The leaked opinion showing the Supreme Court's right-wing majority is prepared to overturn Roe v. Wade "is an invitation to all manner of challenges to deeply rooted precedents," said one critic.

Julia Conley

Days after rights advocates warned that the U.S. Supreme Court's expected overruling of Roe v. Wade portends rollbacks of numerous rights for people in the U.S., Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas said he wants to challenge a 40-year-old ruling that affirmed states must offer free public education to all children.

"I can't believe this has to be said, but ALL children deserve access to a quality public education."

In a radio interview with right-wing host Joe Pagliarulo late Wednesday, Abbott discussed border security and agreed with the host's claim that the children of undocumented immigrants place a "real burden on communities" when they attend public schools, as the Plyler v. Doe ruling required states to allow in 1982.

"The challenges put on our public systems [are] extraordinary," Abbott said. "Texas already long ago sued the federal government about having to incur the costs of the education program... And the Supreme Court ruled against us on the issue about denying, or let's say Texas having to bear that burden."

"I think we will resurrect that case and challenge this issue again, because the expenses are extraordinary and the times are different than when Plyler v. Doe was issued many decades ago," the governor added. 

The Plyler case arose from a 1975 decision by the state of Texas to permit school districts to deny admission or charge tuition to undocumented immigrant families. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed a class action lawsuit after Tyler Independent School District charged $1,000 per year to children who did not provide proof of American citizenship.

The case eventually was taken up by the Supreme Court and the justices ruled 5-4 that all children in the U.S. were entitled to free public education under the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection clause.

Abbott's comments came two days after a draft opinion was leaked from the U.S. Supreme Court showing that the court's right-wing majority voted earlier this year to overrule Roe, a move that would eliminate abortion rights for millions of women in states hostile to reproductive justice.

"The leaked opinion is an invitation to all manner of challenges to deeply rooted precedents," said Tom Jawetz, former vice president of immigration policy at the Center for American Progress.

Abbott's threat to the children of undocumented immigrants, said one healthcare advocate, exemplified the late comedian George Carlin's summation of the anti-choice movement's views on the rights of children.

"I can't believe this has to be said, but ALL children deserve access to a quality public education," said Gwenn Burud, a Democratic candidate for the Texas state Senate. "Unlike the other side, I understand what settled precedent means."


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