State weighs English-learner settlement
The Arizona Republic
Jan. 10, 2007

Mary Jo Pitzl

State officials were considering details Tuesday of a proposed settlement in the long-running legal battle over adequate funding for English-language learners.

Tim Hogan, a public-interest attorney who has been representing school districts in the lawsuit, made the settlement offer over the weekend, after he and the attorney for state lawmakers were discussing the case during a Friday hearing in U.S. District Court in Tucson.

"I made a proposal, as I was asked to do," Hogan said, adding that he was asked by the Legislature's attorney. The offer included an additional $675 in state funding for each student deemed to need extra assistance in learning English, as well as lifting a time limit on how long a student is classified as an English-learner and a stipulation that federal education dollars not be used to offset the state's investment in English-learners.

A plan approved by the Legislature in 2006 called for an additional $432 per student. That plan was rejected by U.S. District Judge Raner Collins.

There are nearly 135,000 Arizona schoolchildren classified as needing assistance to learn English, according to the state Department of Education.

Arizona has been under a court order for seven years to do more to help boost these students' English abilities.

Hogan said he has received no response to his offer, largely because he and the attorneys involved are tied up this week in a related court hearing in U.S. District Court in Tucson.

But Tom Horne, state superintendent of public instruction and one of the defendants in the lawsuit, said that he will back whatever action state lawmakers take on the case.

"If they settle, I'll settle," Horne said. "I'll follow their lead."

Lawmakers are the ones who have to find a way to pay for the cost of instructing students who are working to learn English, Horne said, explaining why he'll go along with whatever legislators decide.

Republicans met in executive sessions Tuesday to discuss the proposal; they would not comment, citing the confidentiality required of pending legal matters.