Parents offer to settle English-learner lawsuit
Jan. 10, 2007
By Howard Fischer Josh Brodesky
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 01.10.2007
The lawyer for
parents suing the state over English- learner skills has made an offer to
finally settle the 15-year-old litigation.
Tim Hogan said
Tuesday that he presented attorneys for both the Legislature and schools
superintendent Tom Horne a deal to have the state put more money into
educating these students.
nor legislative leaders would provide specifics. But Hogan suggested a final
deal could be based on a plan the lawmakers approved last year, which
included $432 per student a year — but with more money involved.
Hogan said he would prove that it costs at least $1,600 per student. On
Tuesday, with the settlement under consideration, he backed off from any set
"I want to see
good (education) models. And I want to see the models funded," he said
during a break in a hearing in U.S. District Court in Tucson over the
currently gives schools about $360 extra per year for each of the
approximately 135,000 youngsters classified as "English-language learners,"
a figure U.S. District Court Judge Raner Collins said is not enough to do
the job properly.
rejected the package approved last year, which would have added conditions
for receiving extra state funding as well as boosting the amount to $432.
But the 9th
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year ordered Collins to reconsider, this
time assessing current conditions in Arizona schools, not what they were
seven years ago, when a prior judge first found the state in violation of
In the first
day of what could be a four-day trial, the state laid out its argument that
language acquisition comes from effective education models that include,
among other facets, unified curriculum and certification for teachers as
well as periodic assessment of student test scores.
the funding level is appropriate," said attorney Eric Bistrow, who
represents Horne's office.
cited improved AIMS-test scores for students in the Nogales Unified School
District as proof the state's education models are working.
"They have a
high level of performance on the AIMS test," said Rosalie Pedalino Porter,
an expert on English-language acquisition and education and a witness for
the state. "It's better than what I have seen in many places."
Porter did a
cost-study analysis for the state last year, comparing Nogales Unified with
four other districts across the country.
noted two of those districts, which Porter described as having excellent
programs, were funded at a rate of about $1,000 per student. He also
questioned the reliability of testing data coming from Nogales Unified.
attorneys representing the Legislature were not interested in his settlement
proposal until Collins last week rejected a request to delay this week's
hearing. At that point, Hogan said, David Cantelme, who represents the
Legislature, "asked me to put something in writing and get it to him, which
funding, Hogan said other provisions in the plan approved last year would
have to be dropped.
the bill said schools could get extra money only after they exhausted other
sources of cash, such as federal grants for students in poverty. And Hogan
will not accept another provision that limits extra state aid to just two
years per student.
Whip Tom Boone said Hogan's offer cannot be dismissed simply because it
might cost the state more than lawmakers approved last year. He said
legislators must determine "what would be the odds" of losing the lawsuit —
and having to spend a lot more money than accepting Hogan's offer would
to say if the specifics of Hogan's offer are acceptable, but the offer has
to be considered, he said.
can be "a good thing because they lower your risk," he said. And the risk is
significant. Hogan believes he can show the court that the state needs to
boost funding far beyond $1,000 a student, which could cost the state $170
million a year or more.
reporter Josh Brodesky at 807-7789 or firstname.lastname@example.org.