Original URL: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/local/articles/0109contempt09.html

Contempt ruling sought in English-class case
Associated Press
Jan. 9, 2004

Fines of $1,000 per day possible

A federal judge is being asked to find the state in contempt of court and to impose daily fines in a decade-old case involving instruction for students learning English.

A motion being filed on behalf of plaintiffs who sued the state in 1992 said the state has failed for 2 1/2 years to keep a promise made in 2000 to adopt rules on qualification of teachers who instruct students learning English.

The motion asked District Judge Alfredo C. Marquez to enforce a 2000 agreement between the state and the lawsuit plaintiffs, impose a $1,000 fine every day the state is not in compliance and reimburse the plaintiffs' attorney fees.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne said Thursday that the Education Department is preparing rules to be submitted to the state Board of Education in February.

The motion said the teacher-qualification rules are critical not only for the educational success of the students involved but also to make sure that the true costs of instructing English-learners are considered in an ongoing study.

"Despite numerous letters . . . urging compliance, it is now January 2004 and there is still not even a proposal much less formal rules that determine such qualifications," attorney Tim Hogan wrote for the plaintiffs.

The study, commissioned by the state as part of its attempts to resolve the lawsuit, is due in August.

The Legislature contracted with the National Conference of State Legislatures in 2003 to conduct the study in hopes of determining what types of school programs best help students learn English and at what cost to taxpayers.

The study will factor in not only the state's efforts to resolve the lawsuit but also a law approved in 2000 that mandates that students be taught in English after yearlong immersion programs to learn the language.

The Legislature ordered the study in December 2001 and approved an interim doubling of state funding for English-learning instruction. Those steps were responses to Marquez's January 2000 ruling that then-current programs were inadequate to meet federal mandates on equal opportunities in education.

The study will consider class sizes, teacher qualifications and other characteristics mentioned by Marquez in a 2000 order.

Only in November 2003, nearly three years after the deadline, did the state adopt rules promised in 2000 to resolve other issues in the suit, the plaintiff's motion stated.

It took years of prodding and threats of seeking court sanctions to accomplish the other rules, Hogan said in explaining why the plaintiffs filed the contempt motion, which he sent Wednesday for filing in Tucson.

Horne, who took office a year ago, said since then there has been a "very orderly process" to propose rules on English-learning.

"We started right away with task forces. We've gotten input from different people all across the state," he said.

Horne said he expects the teacher-qualification rules will have been proposed to the Board of Education before Marquez considers the motion.

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