for English law is put at $304M|
Arizona Daily Star
Jan. 24, 2008
AZ school districts seek boost for language-learner programs
By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
Tucson, Arizona | Published: http://www.azstarnet.com/allheadlines/221972
PHOENIX — School administrators from around Arizona want an extra $304 million to help pay for new programs the state has mandated to teach English to students who aren't proficient.
At a press conference at the Capitol on Wednesday, several school district superintendents sought to bring attention to a requirement that takes effect next school year that they provide at least four hours a day of special language classes to the estimated 130,000 youngsters in Arizona schools classified as English-language learners. They noted the state now provides only about $365 extra for each of those students.
Lawmakers have agreed to provide more — the amount is yet to be determined — if schools follow certain teaching methods. But a study by the Arizona School Administrators Association pegged the actual cost at $2,741 for each youngster, a figure the local school chiefs say is beyond what they eventually will be reimbursed by the state.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne said administrators are inflating the costs.
He noted their number is based on the state reimbursing schools for costs not recognized as legitimate by the law. Greg Wyman, superintendent of the Apache Junction Unified School District, conceded the point but said the law is wrong.
Wyman complained in particular that it's unfair to reimburse schools for the cost of hiring new instructors based on the average teacher salary in the state. He said some districts have higher salaries.
But Horne said that reimbursement — $43,000 a year, plus 25 percent for fringe benefits and other costs — is more than generous.
"They're not going to hire teachers at the average salary," he said. "They're going to hire beginning teachers. They're going to make a profit on every teacher of $10,000 or more."
And Horne said that while those hired have to be qualified, "we have no shortage of English teachers."
The fight surrounds a 2006 law designed to comply with federal court rulings that Arizona isn't meeting its legal obligation to ensure all students have the opportunity to learn English.
That law directed the Department of Education to come up with accepted models to teach students who come to school speaking other languages. Then schools can apply for funding to cover their costs.
Wyman pointed out that lawmakers haven't allocated a cent for next year, and he questioned if they'll fund anything at all, given the state's anticipated $1.7 billion shortage next year.
Debra Duvall, superintendent of the Mesa Unified School District, said the reimbursement formula is inadequate.
She said Mesa will need 100 new teachers for the English instruction classes. And Duvall said that even using band and other rooms, her district will need 31 additional classrooms.
Horne called those kind of figures "exaggerated."
"Basically, you're redistributing the same kids," he said. Similarly, he said there should be only a few situations where additional classrooms are needed.
One thing Horne and the school superintendents agree on is that the law says schools must first exhaust all the federal dollars they get to teach English learners before they can be reimbursed for their costs.
But the debate may be academic: U.S. District Court Judge Raner Collins already has ruled that diversion is illegal. And the ruling stands unless some higher court overturns it.
Judges at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments by attorneys for Horne and the Legislature last month but have yet to issue a ruling.
The appellate court also is being asked to void another part of Collins' order that says it is illegal to limit funding for the special classes to no more than two years. Foes contend there's no evidence that students can become proficient that quickly.
Estimates from from area school districts on how much it will cost to implement the new English classes:
Up to $2.8 million*
*Amphi has two estimates; this is the higher one and contains some extra expenses.
DID YOU KNOW . . .
It almost did not become law, but on the last day of the 29th Arizona Legislature in April 1969 legislators finally agreed on and passed a bilingual-education bill.
It provided for English-Spanish instruction in the first three grades of grammar school only for those of "Spanish-American" descent.
Gov. Jack Williams signed the law, which provided $100,000 for the program, a rate of $25 per child. By February 1970, it was reported that 1,150 children had been denied participation for lack of funds.
Source: Star archives
Detailing the costs at city school districts:
The Star surveyed the city's school districts on Wednesday about how much it would cost to implement the new ELL (English-Language Learners) program. Here are the estimates based on this year's enrollment of the four districts that returned calls, as well as some components of the total cost. (All numbers are rounded.)
Tucson Unified School District:
English-language learners: 7,179
Teachers providing structured English immersion instruction: $21 million
Instructional materials and supplies: $425,000
Total cost: $43 million
Sunnyside Unified School District
Teachers providing structured English immersion instruction: $5.8 million
Instructional materials and supplies: $364,000
Total cost: $8.7 million
Tanque Verde Unified School District
English-language learners: 8
Teachers providing structured English immersion instruction: $53,000
Instructional materials and supplies: $2,000
Total cost: $62,000
Amphitheater Public Schools
English-language learners: 1,704
Teachers providing structured English immersion instruction: $30,000
Instructional materials and supplies: $206,000
Total cost: Up to $2.8 million**
— George B. Sánchez
*There are conflicting numbers for Sunnyside's ELL population.
**Amphi has two estimates; this is the higher one and contains some extra expenses.
"They're not going to hire teachers at the average salary. They're going to hire beginning teachers. They're going to make a profit on every teacher of $10,000 or more."
Tom Horne, state superintendent of public instruction, defending the amount of the state reimbursement to school districts for hiring new teachers