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November 29, 2007

Did Huckabee Fudge the Scholarship Question? - Bumped and Updated

Honestly, I'm not trying to turn into the anti-Mike Huckabee blogger. However, his answer on the question of tuition breaks and scholarships for children who are in this country illegally seems a bit nuanced.

Here's video of the exchange between Huckabee and Mitt Romney. Here's a transcript. Huckabee explained that the program is being misunderstood by those who are critical of it:

Ashley, first of all, let me just express that you're a little misinformed. We never passed a bill that gave special privileges to the children of illegals to go to college.

Now, let me tell you what I did do. I supported the bill that would've allowed those children who had been in our schools their entire school life the opportunity to have the same scholarship that their peers had, who had also gone to high school with them and sat in the same classrooms.

They couldn't just move in in their senior year and go to college. It wasn't about out of state tuition. It was an academic, meritorious scholarship called the Academic Challenge Scholarship.

Now, let me tell you a couple of provisions of it. And, by the way, it didn't pass. It passed the House but got in the Senate and got caught up in the same kind of controversy that this country is caught up in.

And here's what happened. This bill would've said that if you came here, not because you made the choice but because your parents did, that we're not going to punish a child because the parent committed a crime.

That's not what we typically do in this country.

It said that if you'd sat in our schools from the time you're five or six-years old and you had become an A-plus student, you'd completed the core curriculum, you were an exceptional student, and you also had to be drug and alcohol-free -- and the other provision, you had to be applying for citizenship.

As he describes it, the program sounds fine. But according to Arkansas Journal, he's not being entirely forthcoming about the provisions of that bill. Here's their earlier post on this issue, with links to the original news stories and the bill itself. (pdf)

Now, Huckabee may have been describing another bill entirely, but this seems to be the only bill that would have provided any sort of educational benefits to illegal immigrants. And this bill - House Bill 1525 - suffered the fate described by Huckabee during the debate - it died in the Senate. It seems to be the same bill - read the news links at Arkansas Journal.

Here's what it took for students to qualify for tuition breaks and scholarships under the actual bill:

(b) A student without documented immigration status shall be exempt from paying the nonresident portion of total tuition for attendance at a state-supported institution of higher education, if the student:
(1) Attended high school in Arkansas for no fewer than three (3) school years;
(2) Graduated from a high school in Arkansas or received a General Education Development diploma in the state; and
(3) Is or has been admitted at an institution of higher education.
Nothing about being in the school system since age 5, nothing about being drug-free, nothing about being an A+ student. Those are provisions of the existing Academic Challenge Scholarship Program, which HB 1525 would have given illegals access to.

And it doesn't matter which version of the bill you examine. None of the stringent requirements that Huckabee talked about in the debate are part of HB 1525, the bill that actually would have opened in-state tuition and scholarships to illegal immigrants.

The debate over whether states should provide such a benefit is not the issue here. The issue, to me, is whether Huckabee is being entirely forthcoming about the program he's using as evidence of his 'compassionate conservatism.' I'm open to a different view on this, so fire away in the comments. (um...when they work again that is...)

Creamy Nuance? - Okay, after an email conversation with another blogger, I re-read Huckabee's statement again. It seems what he's doing is focusing entirely on one scholarship that illegals would have had access to if this bill had passed. So he's right in saying he supported a bill that would have done those things. There's no misdirection there.

However, there still is a problem with this statement - "They couldn't just move in in their senior year and go to college. It wasn't about out of state tuition." Well, actually, it was governor. Again, from the bill: "A student without documented immigration status shall be exempt from paying the nonresident portion of total tuition for attendance at a state-supported institution of higher education..." It seems pretty clearly about in-state versus out-of-state tuition rates, actually.

Which was, incidentally, the focus of the question. The questioner asked nothing about the scholarships.

Ashley: Governor Huckabee, while governor of Arkansas, you gave a illegal aliens a discount for college in Arkansas by allow them to pay lower in-state tuition rates. However, we have thousands of military members currently serving our country in Iraq with children at home. If these children chose to move to Arkansas to attend college, they would have to pay three times the tuition rate that illegal aliens pay.

Would you support a federal law which would require any state that gives these tuition rates to illegal aliens to give the same rates to the children of our military members?

In his statement, Huckabee also ignores the fact that all state-sponsored scholarships would have been open to these students, not just the one with very stringent standards.

So in the end, Huckabee fudged, but he didn't mislead.

Update - Take care of our own first? - MamaAJ points me to this bill, on the federal level - "The Military Child College Affordability Act." It would "require states to charge in-State tuition rates to active-duty members of the Armed Forces domiciled or stationed on active duty in that State and to the dependents of such members."

AJ points out that military families move quite often, something I know from personal experience. My family moved every three years, which made it difficult for me to get in-state tuition when I started college. I'd like to see what the candidates say about this bill and whether they're willing to go on the record on it. Personally, I wouldn't want to see it mandated for private institutions, but I believe state institutions that take federal dollars should perhaps rethink their policies toward military dependents.


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posted by Slublog at 06:00 PM

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