Judge to rule on whether to proceed with English-learner order against state 
The Arizona Republic
Jun. 24, 2007

Decision today on whether to hold English-learner order against state

Amanda J. Crawford

A federal judge is expected to decide today whether to put on hold his March order to lawmakers to provide more funding to help nearly 160,000 Arizona schoolchildren struggling to learn the English language.

U.S. District Judge Raner Collins had ruled that a funding scheme approved by state lawmakers last year to satisfy a seven-year-old court order violated federal law and did not provide adequate funding to school districts. He ordered lawmakers to address the issue by the end of the legislative session or face sanctions.

Lawmakers, who requested a stay of that order pending their appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, adjourned Wednesday without providing more funding for English instruction. Collins told attorneys this week that it came to his attention that he had not yet ruled on the request for the stay and held a hearing Friday afternoon, said Amy Bjelland, an attorney for Senate Republicans. Tim Hogan, the plaintiffs' attorney with the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, said he believes that, by adjourning without addressing the funding issue, the state is already in violation of the judge's order. He said he is weighing whether to request financial sanctions.

Hogan said he believes the evidence in the case has shown that the state would need to provide $150 million per year to school districts.

The state budget approved by lawmakers and awaiting the governor's signature provides an additional $14.3 million, contingent on the judge's OK. That's the same amount allotted last year and rejected by Collins.

Bjelland said lawmakers and Arizona schools chief Tom Horne believe they are already providing sufficient funding to meet federal law and hope that the 9th Circuit weighs in to finally resolve the lawsuit, which has been going on for 15 years.

The case, Flores vs. Arizona, was first filed in 1992 on behalf of a family in Nogales.