6-week extension sought in English-learning case
Associated Press
Feb. 29, 2008


By Paul Davenport

Tucson, Arizona | Published: http://www.azstarnet.com/allheadlines/227506

PHOENIX Republican legislative leaders asked a federal judge Thursday for a six-week extension on a looming deadline for lawmakers to increase funding for instruction of students learning English. A lawyer for plaintiffs said that's too much time.

Tuesday is the deadline set by U.S. District Judge Raner Collins last October when he ruled a 2006 law revamping English Language Learning programs to use new instruction models doesn't do enough to satisfy federal mandates for equal opportunities in education. He also ruled several provisions violate federal laws.

Collins has threatened to impose unspecified sanctions if the Legislature doesn't meet the deadline he set in the 16-year-old class-action case challenging the adequacy of Arizona's ELL programs. He previously imposed $21 million of daily fines against the state in the same case, though the fines were erased on appeal.

Reacting to a federal appeals court's ruling last Friday upholding Collins' October order, lawyers for the legislative leaders defending the 2006 law asked that the deadline be extended to April 18.

"The relatively brief extension is necessary because of delays caused by a number of school districts that submitted inflated and incomplete funding requests," the extension motion stated.

The state Department of Education is still processing the 247 funding requests and hasn't told the Legislature how much additional funding that districts and charter schools should get to implement the new models, the motion said.

That means the Legislature won't know how much money is needed before Tuesday's deadline, the motion said.

However, plaintiffs' attorney Tim Hogan said the six-week request is unfounded because state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne has already estimated that the cost figure will range between $30 million and $50 million.

"So they're in a position to comply with the court order," Hogan said, adding that he was willing to accept only a two-week delay.