Hogan set on solving English-learner issue
The Arizona Republic
May. 22, 2005

During the final days of the legislative session a few weeks ago, there was a rail-thin, bespectacled man planted on the concrete benches outside the Capitol puffing away on a cigarette.

He was quiet, unassuming, even nondescript. He wasn't a lobbyist, a lawmaker or a bird-watcher. He was Timothy M. Hogan, whose succinct legal arguments have fundamentally transformed how Arizona builds, repairs and maintains schools across the state.

The executive director of the Arizona Center for the Law in the Public Interest is loved and loathed at the Capitol for challenging lawmakers through the courts. His latest battle involves 175,000 students who struggle to learn English, the outgrowth of a 1992 case, Flores vs. Arizona. A federal judge has ruled that Arizona lawmakers are shortchanging those students and ordered the Legislature to fix the problem by the end of its 2005 session. If the Legislature didn't meet that deadline, Hogan has said he would ask the judge to strip the state of its federal highway funding.

The Republican-led Legislature's attempt to fix the problem was met with Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano's veto stamp on Friday afternoon. That veto, driven partly by politics and public policy, has sent the Legislature back to the drawing board to deal with an issue that has simmered for more than a decade. Hogan sat down and chatted with Arizona Republic reporter Chip Scutari about the veto and why the case matters to Arizona's future.

Question: With Napolitano's veto, what's your next move?

Answer: We'd certainly wait for a while and try to see what kind of consensus is emerging about solving the Flores problem. I'm not going to rush back to court for the sake of going back to court. I'm interested in solving this problem. If we can get that done in a special session, that is fine with me.

Q. What was wrong with the bill that the Legislature passed to help out English-language learners?

A. After more than five years, the bill that they claim fixes this problem doesn't have any relationship to any of the cost studies that were done. There's a one-year increase that's tied to nothing in particular; it's totally arbitrary.

Q. Is there any evidence that children who struggle to learn English are more likely to drop out of school?

A. I haven't seen a dropout statistic on ELL students, but they are failing AIMS (statewide standardized tests) at two to three times the rate of the other students. It only stands to reason that if you are failing AIMS at that kind of rate, the likelihood of you dropping out . . . is much higher.