Legislature's ELL stinginess costly to future
May 9, 2008
stinginess costly to future
Republic, The (Phoenix, AZ)
Valley Think Tank
As leaders of a
consortium serving more than 250,000 students in the East Valley through our
elementary, secondary and postsecondary institutions, we share a commitment to
success for all our students.
This commitment is especially compelling for students who enter school unable to
read, write and speak
English , so-called
Since 1992 Arizona has been engaged in a lawsuit in the federal courts regarding
the educational services we have failed to provide for these Arizona students,
now numbering over 130,000 in our schools.
In 2006, the Legislature moved to end the so-called Flores lawsuit by charging
the Education Department and a separate task force to develop new methods for
teaching ELL students and inform the Legislature how much money it would take to
fund such changes.
The law requires school districts to begin implementing the new ELL model by the
beginning of the next school year. Districts such as Mesa, for example, will
need to hire more than 100 teachers and equip their classrooms to fulfill the
requirements of the new ELL model.
By state statute, ELL students must be taught in their neighborhood school, yet
districts' requests for additional funds for space have been denied. Districts
need to be doing this hiring and planning now if they are to be ready to educate
these students in August.
In a dance that would seem comical if there were not so much at stake for our
students, districts and the Department of Education have traded cost estimates
back and forth, with districts estimating real costs and the department
rejecting their costs because the districts have not first "used" other federal
funds to underwrite these programs.
It is this requirement by the department that has been declared illegal by two
different federal courts, yet our policymakers hide behind it as they continue
to deny the funds needed by educators to implement the model that the
policymakers themselves have mandated.
The reality of two federal courts' judgments, seen in light of the state's
current fiscal crisis, seems pricey. However, in our minds, the costs to the
Arizona economy and society of hundreds of thousands of youngsters having gone
through our K-12 system without the resources they need to succeed far outstrips
the financial costs of adequately funding the program as the federal law
If the state is to finally remove this albatross from around its collective
neck, we need to adequately fund this rigorous new ELL model, and thereby give
our schools the resources they need to teach these students.
Resolute action from Arizona is overdue. The time for foot dragging is long
past. As P-20 educators, we implore our policymakers to act now, for the good of
these students, and for the long-term good of our state.
This statement reflects the collaborative thinking of the members of the East
Valley Think Tank, comprised of the top administrators of 19 public educational
institutions from elementary and unified school districts to community colleges
and universities. It does not reflect the opinion of the governing boards of our
school districts, community colleges, or universities. Information:
Section: San Tan Monthly
Record Number: pho103543801