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Florida In-State Tuition is Not Dead if State Senate President Gaetz Does the Right Thing

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Below is a press release from the Florida Immigrant Coalition:

Yesterday, in-state tuition faced what might have seemed like a terminal roadblock in the Florida Legislature, after Senator Negron and Senate President Don Gaetz released statements in opposition. However, immigrant youth and diverse members of the Florida Immigrant Coalition understand that a bill is not dead until the session is over until May 2nd, and that there are still plenty of ways in which lawmakers can bring much needed Tuition Equity to our state.

The following is a statement from Florida Immigrant Coalition’s Executive Director, Maria Rodriguez, on behalf of their 51 member groups:

For the past 10 years we have seen in-state tuition bills in our legislature and in some years they passed each chamber of the Florida legislature, but never made it to the Governor’s desk. For over a decade, Florida’s students and teachers have frustratingly seen how Florida has been left behind while nearly 20 other states have passed similar bills to promote access to education for all youth regardless of their immigration status and thus, the future of their workforce. This year, the support grew exponentially from the majority of both parties, in both chambers and even tacit support from Governor Scott. The time has come.

Although Sen. Joe Negron’s punitive, short-sited and backward attempt to block In-State Tuition Senate Bill 1400 from being heard on his Committee seems like a setback and will likely be remembered for years to come, what is most concerning is that Senate President Gaetz is rescinding of his intent to bring it to a vote. On February 21st, Senator Gaetz stated that “the issue will be very likely debated in the Senate.” We can’t believe the Senate President would go back on his word and turn his back on these young people. Senator Gaetz has been clear that his vote will be a no, but he has also stated he would not block it from coming to the Senate floor.    

In-State Tuition can be debated and voted on anytime on the Senate floor if President Gaetz allows the democratic process to continue as it should. Senate Bill 1400 has already passed 3 of 4 committees, and it only needs one to be voted on the floor. As if that weren’t enough, House Bill 851, which was approved on March 20th, is still waiting for its chance to be heard on the Senate floor. There are ample options and time; all we need is for Senator Gaetz to keep his word and allow a debate and a vote on the Senate floor. It is the fair and moral thing to do.

Whether undocumented, naturalized or US born, families of immigrant descent, Latinos, youth, education advocates and other members of the community, we will not stop until this bill gets to be heard on the Senate floor. These kids have had to overcome poverty, racism and exclusion to succeed in this country. They can’t sit idle allowing a single voice stop their dreams.

American voters throughout the country are tired with obstructionism against common sense laws, starting with the U.S. Congress. Let’s not hijack the progress of our state denying a democratic vote and obstructing the dreams of Florida’s children. Give in-state tuition a chance to be debated and voted on.

Over 175,000 students in Florida would potentially benefit from in-state tuition, which some predict could significantly increase the college enrollment of the most vulnerable and excluded families. This would be a boom not just to them, but to the entrepreneurial force that helps Florida’s competitive edge flourish.