Unfinished study on cost of
teaching English could block $400M in U.S. aid
CAPITOL MEDIA SERVICES
By Howard Fischer
PHOENIX - Arizona could lose $400
million in federal highway money if it does not
complete a study on the cost of teaching English
by Dec. 1.
Attorney Tim Hogan said Monday he
will ask a federal judge to impose sanctions
against the state if lawmakers do not meet their
own self-imposed deadline. He said the
Legislature not only put that Dec. 1 deadline in
a statute but effectively promised U.S. District
Judge Alfredo Marquez they would take action.
He also vowed to seek a contempt
citation, something Hogan said could trigger
Marquez to block federal aid - including highway
construction and maintenance cash - until the
state meets its legal requirements.
Hogan said his concern is not so
much the final study. He noted that a
preliminary version made available in August
suggested Arizona taxpayers may have to shell
out an extra $180 million or more to comply with
Marquez's order that the state adequately fund
instruction for students to learn English.
He said the real problem is that
a special legislative committee was supposed to
review that study and make recommendations to
the full Legislature by that Dec. 1 deadline.
Hogan said lawmakers are unlikely to actually
come up with the necessary cash this coming
session to fulfill the court order - and the
requirements of federal law - without the study.
"People are putting together
budgets right now," Hogan said.
"And, as far as I know, none of
these budgets have … the increased funding that
is going to be necessary to support these
Parents of students in the
Nogales Unified School District filed suit 12
years ago charging 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
Lawmakers subsequently voted to
increase that, with the current figure standing
at $355. But Marquez in 2002 found that, too,
was flawed because it was not based on any
actual data of the real cost.
Hogan said the preliminary report
suggested the proper figure was anywhere from
$1,200 to $1,600 per student. He said that about
200,000 of the approximately 1 million
youngsters in the public school system are
limited-English learners and require additional
House Speaker Jim Weiers had no
response to the action, according to his
spokesman, Jake Logan.
Hogan said voter approval of
Proposition 203 four years ago, designed to
outlaw the bilingual education program, does not
change anything because Marquez found the state
in violation of federal laws. Hogan said the
method of instruction, whether bilingual or
English immersion mandated under Proposition
203, is irrelevant.