GOP, gov. dispute English funding
 May 27, 2005

By Howard Fischer

PHOENIX - Top Republican lawmakers said Thursday it's now the responsibility of Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano to come up with a fix to a lawsuit on English learning.
Senate President Ken Bennett and House Speaker Jim Weiers said the plan they sent the governor complied with a federal court order to provide adequate funding to teach English to students who come to school speaking another language. But they said Judge Raner Collins won't get a chance to decide that because Napolitano vetoed it.
"So I think the ball's in her court to propose something in return," Bennett said.
But Napolitano doesn't see it that way, said her press aide, Jeanine L'Ecuyer. She said Napolitano believes majority Republicans must work with the Democrats, especially Senate Minority Leader Linda Aguirre, a former teacher and school board member.
But Bennett said the proposal being pushed by Aguirre is unacceptable because it gives schools a fixed amount of new dollars, something Bennett called arbitrary.
That claim is significant: The federal court previously ruled the amount of cash given to schools with "English language learners" was "arbitrary and capricious."
The stalemate can't last: Attorney Tim Hogan, who represents the parents and school districts who filed the successful lawsuit, said if lawmakers don't come up with a plan by the end of June, he will ask Collins to declare the state in contempt for refusing to comply with his order to fix the problem. And Hogan said he will ask the judge to hold up $400 million a year in federal highway aid to get the state's attention.
Federal law requires states to ensure students be taught English. The lawsuit charged - and a judge agreed - the $150 extra provided by the state for each English language-learner was insufficient; a subsequent increase to about $355 also was rejected by the court.
A cost study commissioned by lawmakers came up with figures as high as $2,500 per student. But GOP leaders rejected the study as flawed.
The Republican proposal added about $75 per student to the funding formula for the coming year.