Court won't stop judge in English case
Tucson, Arizona | Published: http://www.azstarnet.com/allheadlines/189946
State lawmakers ignored his order to fund programs
By Howard Fischer
A federal appeals court has refused to block a Tucson trial judge from penalizing state lawmakers for violating his order to come up with a new plan to boost funding aimed at helping children learn English.
In a three-page order Friday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a request by attorneys for the Legislature to stop U.S. District Judge Raner Collins from taking any further action in the case.
The lawmakers acknowledge that they ignored an order Collins issued in March to create — and fund — a legally sufficient plan by the end of the legislative session to ensure that all children attending Arizona public schools have an opportunity to learn English.
But lawmakers went home without acting. That technically put the lawmakers in contempt of court.
Attorneys for legislators contend that Collins erred in that March ruling by rejecting the plan they enacted earlier this year.
The appellate judges said there is no reason to block Collins from considering penalties because attorney Tim Hogan, who represents parents who filed the original lawsuit, has yet to ask for any punishment. They said legislative lawyers can resubmit their request if Hogan does seek punishment.
Hogan said he is weighing what kind of penalties to seek, and exactly whom to punish.
Last year Collins approved $21 million in fines against the state for missing an earlier deadline. Those eventually were voided by the appellate court.
Hogan said he is likely to request financial sanctions again this year. But he said he might seek to have these imposed not on the state but directly on Senate President Tim Bee and House Speaker Jim Weiers, saying they made the ultimate decision not to try to come up with a new plan and comply with Collins' March order.
The appellate court also said Friday it will not take action until at least September, or later, on the state's appeal of Collins' ruling that the Legislature has yet to come up with a legal plan to teach English.
Arizona currently gives schools an extra $365 a year in state aid for each of the approximately 135,000 students classified as not yet proficient in English. Hogan said there is evidence that it takes perhaps $1,000 or more to properly fund the necessary teachers, classrooms and materials.