Governor may bypass lawmakers to offer in-state tuition to illegal immigrants

Lindsey Parietti

Gov. Deval Patrick is looking at ways to circumvent the Legislature in order to provide in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, he said at a breakfast event Thursday.

Although he shied away from using the words executive order, Patrick said he has asked for legal advice about his authority over the contentious issue.  

“I think this is the right thing to do. I realize that it is highly controversial … my own view is that it’s a matter of fundamental fairness,” he said at the event hosted by MassINC, a public policy think tank.

“We don’t tell immigrant children that they can’t go to public college, we don’t say that. We say they can come, we just say they have to pay a different rate than the kid who sat across the aisle from them at the local high school.”

Rep. Pam Richardson said that while the Legislature should have input, she supports in-state tuition for immigrants.

“When it’s in a bill form we have a stake, and if it’s in a funding form we have a stake, so I can’t imagine we wouldn’t have the ability to have an influence on the process at some point,” said Rep. Steve LeDuc, D-Marlborough, a member of the Joint Education Committee, who opposes the measure.

Patrick also announced plans to create a secretary of education to oversee the education reforms he plans to make over the next few years.

Paul Reville, recently appointed state Board of Education chairman, said the new position was “not an enormously powerful secretariat” and would be more of a coordinator than an education czar.

“Their vision is very much focused on collaboration” Reville said of Patrick’s plan, which the Legislature has 60 days to approve or reject.

If passed, Patrick’s proposal would also consolidate his power over the boards of early education, department of education, and higher education, by removing two Romney era appointees - Early Education Commissioner Ann Reale and Higher Education Chancellor Patricia Plummer - from the boards, in addition to creating two new seats on each board for the governor to fill.

The reshuffling is in preparation for the recommendations of the Readiness Project, a 200-member team tasked with identifying reforms in areas from pre-kindergarten, to school aid funding, to higher education.

The project is expected to release recommendations by early April and give the governor interim recommendations this week, said Patrick education advisor and Bridgewater State College President Dana Mohler-Faria.

Most of the breakfast attendees were Patrick’s advisors, members of MassINC, or of the Readiness Project, who praised the governor during a question and answer session.

“You inspire me every time you speak, if you could do it once a week that would be really nice, keep me moving,” said Kathleen Kelly, Readiness Project member and former president of the Massachusetts Federation of Teachers.  

Lindsey Parietti can be reached at

MetroWest Daily News