Unfinished study on cost of teaching English could block $400M in U.S. aid
November 23, 2004
 By Howard Fischer
PHOENIX - Arizona could lose $400 million in federal highway money if it does not complete a study on the cost of teaching English by Dec. 1.
Attorney Tim Hogan said Monday he will ask a federal judge to impose sanctions against the state if lawmakers do not meet their own self-imposed deadline. He said the Legislature not only put that Dec. 1 deadline in a statute but effectively promised U.S. District Judge Alfredo Marquez they would take action.
He also vowed to seek a contempt citation, something Hogan said could trigger Marquez to block federal aid - including highway construction and maintenance cash - until the state meets its legal requirements.
Hogan said his concern is not so much the final study. He noted that a preliminary version made available in August suggested Arizona taxpayers may have to shell out an extra $180 million or more to comply with Marquez's order that the state adequately fund instruction for students to learn English.
He said the real problem is that a special legislative committee was supposed to review that study and make recommendations to the full Legislature by that Dec. 1 deadline. Hogan said lawmakers are unlikely to actually come up with the necessary cash this coming session to fulfill the court order - and the requirements of federal law - without the study.
"People are putting together budgets right now," Hogan said.
"And, as far as I know, none of these budgets have the increased funding that is going to be necessary to support these programs."
Parents of students in the Nogales Unified School District filed suit 12 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 state aid being provided for these students was "arbitrary and capricious," with no bearing on actual cost.
Lawmakers subsequently voted to increase that, with the current figure standing at $355. But Marquez in 2002 found that, too, was flawed because it was not based on any actual data of the real cost.
Hogan said the preliminary report suggested the proper figure was anywhere from $1,200 to $1,600 per student. He said that about 200,000 of the approximately 1 million youngsters in the public school system are limited-English learners and require additional funding.
House Speaker Jim Weiers had no response to the action, according to his spokesman, Jake Logan.
Hogan said voter approval of Proposition 203 four years ago, designed to outlaw the bilingual education program, does not change anything because Marquez found the state in violation of federal laws. Hogan said the method of instruction, whether bilingual or English immersion mandated under Proposition 203, is irrelevant.