States English-learner appeal rejected by court
Capitol Media Services
April 18, 2008



By Howard Fischer

Tucson, Arizona | Published:

PHOENIX Arizona cannot limit additional aid to students to help them learn English to just two years, a federal appeals court affirmed Thursday.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected arguments by attorneys for Republican legislative leaders and state school superintendent Tom Horne that they can limit how long Arizona taxpayers have to finance the programs designed to teach English.

The full court, without comment, accepted the conclusions of a three-judge panel that there is no evidence all students can become proficient in the two years the law would fund.

Thursday's ruling also upholds the panel's conclusion that schools cannot be forced to divert certain federal grants to teaching English before they qualify for additional state dollars.

Horne and legislative leaders had hoped the court would accept limits on English learner programs, which would have allowed them to cut the $40.6 million in new funds just appropriated to less than $20 million.

Horne vowed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. He wants the nation's high court to throw out the entire lawsuit first filed in 1992, eliminating the need for the state to give anymore money to schools than the $50 million it now provides.

"We think there's a very fundamental question presented here, and that is whether or not we are a representative republic where people rule themselves through elected representatives or whether lifetime appointed federal judges who are accountable to no one can micromanage the taxing and spending of monies of the people," Horne said.

Tim Hogan, representing the parents who sued the state, is pushing in the opposite direction. He is heading back to court next week to ask U.S. District Judge Raner Collins to rule $40.6 million is not enough to put the state into compliance with federal laws guaranteeing all students have the opportunity to learn English.

A hearing on the adequacy of the funds likely would occur later this year.

But that spat could become moot if Horne get the U.S. Supreme Court to see the situation his way.