Attorney wants funds to be set aside by Legislature for language instruction
Arizona Republic
March 7, 2008


Mary Jo Pitzl


The Legislature should move quickly and direct $40 million in next year's budget to English-language education as part of a strategy to satisfy a federal court order, says the attorney representing students in the legal battle over language instruction.

Even if it's not enough to meet all the needs of English-language learners, the $40 million "is better than nothing," Tim Hogan said in a filing to U.S. District Judge Raner Collins.

Hogan's filing sets the stage for a Monday hearing before Collins on when the state must have an adequate funding plan in place to educate English-language learners. A state law requires schools to offer four hours a day of English-language instruction beginning with the fall semester. Lawmakers faced a March 4 deadline for a spending plan but have asked for an extension to April 18.

Earlier this week, state schools superintendent Tom Horne submitted a $40.6 million budget request to the Legislature for the English-language programs.

Almost all of the money would be used to hire additional teachers, he said.

Hogan noted that there's little reason for "blind insistence" on the March 4 deadline, given the extension request was made just days before it hit. Instead, he said he could agree to a March 18 deadline, at the latest.

Schools are already behind in their ability to hire the teachers needed to meet the beefed-up language-instruction requirements, Hogan said. He is representing students in the Flores vs. Arizona lawsuit, which is in its 16th year.

The $40 million request fell far short of what school officials say they need. In January, they estimated they'd need $300 million for extra costs.

Hogan said the $40 million would be a good start and noted in his filing with the court that the extra money could always be appropriated later.