English teaching funds get push
Capitol Media Services
Dec. 14, 2004


By Howard Fischer
An attorney for parents of Spanish-speaking children wants a federal judge to impose a deadline for state lawmakers to come up with more money to teach their youngsters English.
Tim Hogan said Monday that the state has not been moving swiftly to comply with a 4-year-old ruling that Arizona comply with federal laws requiring states to adequately fund instruction so students can learn English.
Hogan, in legal papers filed in federal court in Tucson, said lawmakers promised to provide a complete cost study by Dec. 1, paving the presumed way for the Legislature to provide the funding next year.
But Hogan told U.S. District Judge Alfredo Marquez that the Dec. 1 deadline came and went without the required report being filed.
"The Legislature is once again in position to ignore the court's judgment for yet another legislative session," Hogan said. So he wants Marquez to order lawmakers to have funding in place no later than the end of their session that begins next month.
Hogan said that if lawmakers miss that deadline, he would seek to cut off all state funding for public schools, a move that effectively would shut them down.
"Without an appropriate order from the court now, the plaintiffs will lose yet another year in securing the relief to which they are entitled under the court's judgment," Hogan said.
Parents of students in the Nogales Unified School District filed suit more than a dozen years ago charging the state was not complying with federal laws requiring schools to offer adequate English-language instruction. Marquez ruled in 2000 that the $150 in additional per-student state aid being provided was "arbitrary and capricious," with no bearing on actual cost.
Lawmakers subsequently voted to increase that, with the current figure standing at $355 per student. But Marquez found in 2002 that that figure, too, was flawed because it was not based on any actual data concerning the real cost.
That led lawmakers to seek a cost study. A preliminary version released earlier this year showed that, depending on proficiency and grade level, the state needed to add anywhere from another $703 to $2,495 per student. But there never was a final report - and the Dec. 1 deadline that Marquez accepted as an "interim measure" never was met.
Hogan said that in the five years since Marquez issued his ruling, "thousands of English-language learners have attended school in a system that is inadequately funded." The result, he said, is that they have not received the educational programs they need - and the state is required under federal law to provide.