Order on teaching English to
nonspeakers will be costly
CAPITOL MEDIA SERVICES
By Howard Fischer
PHOENIX - Arizona taxpayers will
have to shell out an extra $200 million or more
a year to comply with a federal judge's order to
adequately fund instruction for students to
learn English, a new study says.
The study - prepared at the
judge's direction - says the additional $355 per
student the state provides for teaching students
with limited English proficiency is
The actual cost is no less than
$703 for students with some language skills to
as much as $2,495 for those with the greatest
need, according to the study, released Thursday.
Those figures are above and beyond the
approximately $4,000 in basic per-student state
aid to schools.
Legislative staffers estimate
that 80 percent of the 150,000 students with
little or no English skills are in the more
expensive high-need category.
It now is up to state lawmakers
to come up with the cash.
Refusal is not really an option:
If the Legislature does not come up with
additional cash, attorney Tim Hogan said he will
ask U.S. District Judge Alfredo Marquez of
Tucson to hold the state in contempt. And the
sanction Hogan would seek is to have the judge
cut off the more than $400 million Arizona gets
each year in federal highway funds.
Rep. Linda Lopez, D-Tucson, said
it would be wrong of her colleagues to look at
this solely as an expense rather than an
investment. "English learners comprise nearly 20
percent of the entire student population, and we
cannot afford to ignore their educational
needs," she said.
Sen. Peter Rios, D-Dudleyville,
said the additional funds should help reduce the
state's high dropout rate.
Parents of students in the
Nogales Unified School District filed suit 12
years ago charging that 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
found in 2002 that that too was flawed because
it was not based on any actual data of the real
The judge ordered the Legislature
to come up with a study.
Hogan, who represents the
parents, said the judge's order gives state
lawmakers through the end of next year's
legislative session to provide the funds.
Lopez said it would be hard for
legislators to dispute the results of the study
since they were the ones who contracted with the
National Conference of State Legislatures to