Texas Governor Greg Abbott gave a controversial radio interview last Wednesday in which he answered questions about the immigration system and Texas public schools. The governor said Texas wants to challenge a 1982 Supreme Court ruling that required states to offer free public education to all children regardless of their immigration status.

“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 versus Doe was issued many decades ago,” Abbott told conservative radio host Joe Pagliarulo.

The 1982 Plyler v. Doe Supreme Court decision came in response to a Texas law blocking education for unlawful migrants. The court ruled 5-4 against the Texas law, citing the 14th Amendment’s “Equal Protection Clause.”

“Education has a fundamental role in maintaining the fabric of our society,” Justice William Brennan wrote for the majority in favor. “We cannot ignore the significant social costs borne by our Nation when select groups are denied the means to absorb the values and skills upon which our social order rests.”

Brennan added that the government denying education to one isolated group of children would be an obstacle to “advancement on the basis of individual merit.”

Justice Warren Burger wrote for the opposition, which argued that the “Equal Protection Clause does not mandate identical treatment of different categories of persons.” He also stated a belief that it should not be up to the Court to provide leadership on the issue; rather, the other political branches that set policy should make the decision. 

Nonetheless, Burger acknowledged that “it would be folly — and wrong — to tolerate creation of a segment of society made up of illiterate persons, many having a limited or no command of our language.”

However, Governor Abbott believes now is the time to challenge the ruling, given the changing political landscape following the release of Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion on the Roe v. Wade abortion case. Abbott explained the burdens facing Texas schools go beyond financial issues.

The governor claimed a growing language barrier between students and educators heavily burdens the Texas public school system.

“It’s not just Spanish that teachers have to grapple with, it’s multiple other languages,” Abbott said. “The challenge put on our public school system is extraordinary.”

South Texas College of Law Professor Charles Rhodes weighed in on Governor Abbott’s comments in an interview with KHOU 11.

“The argument of the school children, in this case, is denying the ability to be able to obtain an education that you’re providing to everybody else is a denial of equal protection of the law,” Rhodes said.

Rhodes added that the idea of any child not receiving an education in the U.S. would be hard to grapple with for many people. Still, a revisited case on the matter would consider issues facing Texas schools today, and Rhodes said the leaked Roe v. Wade draft is an indicator of how the court may rule.

“There’s a pretty good chance they would overrule it in the type of methodology that was used in that case versus the type of methodology they want to use in future cases involving individual rights and liberties,” Rhodes commented.