Educators back English proposal
The Arizona Republic
Jul. 1, 2005
Urban education leaders are rooting for Gov. Janet Napolitano's proposal to
acquire funding for students learning English.
The Arizona governor recently unveiled a plan that seeks to satisfy a federal
court order by spending up to $185 million more annually to teach students
If the proposal is approved by the Legislature this summer at a special session
yet to be called by Napolitano, the upcoming school year's distribution of the
funds would amount to $13.5 million with increases to $185 million by 2009.
This means that districts like Isaac, Roosevelt and Cartwright, where a
large population of English learners attend school, would receive more funding
per student. Under the plan, schools would receive an increase of $1,300 per
English-learning pupil, up from $355 per child currently.
Arizona schools are educating 160,000 students who speak a foreign language. The
vast majority of these students speak Spanish. Some educators believe that
students who struggle to learn English are prone to leave the classroom and drop
out of school altogether.
The Isaac Elementary District educates 8,900 students, and as many as 5,300 are
identified as English learners. Isaac students speak at least 10 foreign
Isaac Superintendent Kent Scribner is delighted about Napolitano's proposal. He
believes that lowering teacher-student ratios, giving lessons using academic
programs that work, and providing staff development for teachers can help
State test scores show that urban districts are the most challenged districts,
"The state has failed to provide for teacher training and to provide for smaller
class sizes," Scribner said.
The Legislature is under a court order to spend more money on English language
learners. Arizona Republican leaders proposed spending $42 million for
instruction programs and training for students to fulfill the 1992 lawsuit filed
by a Nogales family.
That plan, however, would force districts to apply for grants in order to get
the funds, which would not be guaranteed.
Scribner called the Legislature's idea "irresponsible" because it takes away
desegregation dollars and would force districts to play a shell game.
The Roosevelt School District identified 4,500 of its 12,000 students as English
If the Legislature approved Napolitano's proposal, or one similar, the district
would form a committee charged with looking and finding areas where students
need help most.
If Roosevelt had the funds it needed, the district would attempt to lower its
25-1 student-teacher ratio, Superintendent Grace Wright said.
The ideal situation would be to have one teacher for 18 students in the lower
grades, which now average about 20 to 25 students per teacher, Wright said.
The district would find "people trained to work with diverse student
populations," Wright wrote in a prepared statement. "We would spend it on
classroom reduction and staff development for strategies that work for English
The Cartwright School District had 20,000 students during the 2004-05 school
year, and about 9,500 were considered English-learning students.