Next step in English learners court ruling up to lawmakers
The Arizona Republic
Mar. 27, 2007


Lawmakers to decide on appeal of English learners school case

Mary Jo Pitzl

Republican legislative leaders will huddle Wednesday with the state schools superintendent to decide what they should do in the wake of the latest ruling in the long-standing legal battle over English language learners.

Meanwhile, Democrats kept the pressure on their GOP counterparts to drop the legal maneuvers and work on a legislative solution.

Last week, a federal judge ruled that the Legislature's proposed approach to helping students become proficient in English did not meet federal standards. GOP leaders initially said they would fight the ruling with an appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. But on Monday, House Majority Leader Tom Boone, R-Peoria, said a decision will be made after lawmakers meet with their attorneys and state schools chief Tom Horne. That meeting has been set for Wednesday.

Boone said his personal preference is that lawmakers appeal.

Horne said he will follow the Legislature's lead. But, like Boone, his preference is to appeal.

"If the Legislature decides it wants to come into compliance, fine with me,"
Horne said. "If not, I will appeal."

Given the improved performance of students in the Nogales Unified School District, where the lawsuit originated 15 years ago, Horne said he believes there's a strong case to be made that the state has an affordable model for educating students in English skills.

But Democratic lawmakers are urging their colleagues to stop the legal wrangling and craft a plan the court will accept. Rep. David Lujan, D-Phoenix, said lawmakers have the know-how to fix the problem; they just lack the will.

"Unfortunately for the GOP leadership, it does cost money," Lujan said.

"I think it's time we sit at a table and make it work."

Reach the reporter at (602) 444-8963 or