Horne, lawmakers want delay in ELL case
Jan. 2, 2007
State Superintendent Tom Horne and Republican legislative leaders are asking for
a delay in a scheduled mini-trial in a thorny education funding dispute now that
a federal judge has refused to limit the case to only the adequacy of English
Language Learning programs in one school district instead of statewide.
Horne, the superintendent of public instruction, and top Republican leaders of
the House and Senate said in separate motions that a multiday hearing scheduled
for four days next week in U.S. District Court in Tucson can't go forward as
scheduled in the wake of Judge Raner C. Collins' recent ruling.
At issue in the case is whether the state has done enough to improve programs
for some 160,000 students learning the English language. Collins had ruled that
a state law enacted last year to revamp Arizona's ELL programs doesn't provide
adequate educational opportunities required under federal law, but a federal
appeals overturned that ruling and ordered Collins to hold a hearing to consider
various changed circumstances.
Horne and the legislative leaders argued that the hearing, now scheduled to
begin Tuesday, should consider only whether programs are adequate in the Nogales
Unified School District. They said that's because students and parents in that
southern Arizona district in Santa Cruz County comprised the original "class" of
plaintiffs in the nearly 15-year-old class-action case.
However, Collins refused, saying in a Dec. 20 order that a different judge who
ruled in 2000 that the state's ELL programs were inadequate didn't limit his
findings to the Nogales district.
"The court order in 2000 had statewide implications and it always has,"
Collins wrote. "Funding for (Nogales) was not determined in a vacuum."
That prompted Horne lawyer Eric Bistrow to request at least an eight-month delay
to allow pretrial fact-finding on needs and costs of numerous districts,
including ones in Tucson, Scottsdale and Glendale, which figure in evidence that
the plaintiffs plan to submit during the hearing.
Without extra time, Horne "is effectively being denied the ability to mount a
defense as to what are essentially new claims made by new parties,"
Bistrow wrote. "This is fundamentally unfair."
Republican legislative leaders also requested a delay, making arguments similar
to Horne's and saying that data on ELL cases in all Arizona school districts is
now being collected.
"That cost information should come in time for the Legislature to act on it
before the June 30 end of the current fiscal year," attorney David Cantelme
wrote on behalf of the legislative leaders.
Tim Hogan, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said Tuesday he would oppose the
requests by Horne and the lawmakers to delay the hearing.
"They requested this hearing and they don't get to dictate the time and
circumstances of it," Hogan said." We need a hearing quickly so the Legislature
can comply with the judgment."
On the Net:
Arizona Department of Education: http://www.ade.state.az.us/