Florida's regressive policy of charging out-of-state tuition to the children of illegal immigrants, even when those children were born in Florida and are, thus, American citizens, is harsh and counterproductive. It punishes young Americans for the "sins" of their elders and defeats the higher purpose of helping to ensure that Florida has an educated and productive workforce.
It is also, as it turns out, illegal.
Last week a federal judge ruled that the state's policy of denying in-state tuition to students who would otherwise qualify but for the legal status of their parents is a violation of the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.
That's no surprise. Similar rulings in other states that have similarly regressive policies have reached similar conclusions.
"The state regulations deny a benefit and create unique obstacles to attain post-secondary public education," U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore ruled this week.
State education officials, according to news reports, have not decided whether to appeal the ruling. Doing so would seem to serve no purpose other than to throw good money after bad.
Constitutional questions aside, it is simply bad public policy to deny otherwise eligible Florida residents in-state tuition because of the actions of their parents. To the extent that a higher education is a gateway to economic opportunity, it is in the state's best interest to offer the broadest access possible to Florida's public colleges and universities.
It is disgraceful that state officials have to be prodded by a federal judge to treat all Floridians equally and fairly. By order of the court, the state should now abandon this regressive barrier to opportunity.