Judge asked to set deadline for Legislature to provide funding
Associated Press
Jan. 24, 2005 

TUCSON - A federal judge heard arguments Monday over whether to set a deadline for the Legislature to increase funding for teaching students learning English, then took the case under advisement.

Tim Hogan, the attorney who represents parents of English-learning students, urged U.S. District Judge Raner Collins to set a new deadline for lawmakers to increase funding by the end of the Legislature's 2005 regular session. Hogan had filed a motion making the request last month.

Hogan said a cost study which was to have been completed for legislators in time for their regular session has not been finished. He has accused the state of inaction and delays on previous court orders issued by U.S. District Judge Alfredo C. Marquez.

Marquez has found Arizona in violation of federal laws guaranteeing civil rights and equal opportunities in education.

In court Monday, Hogan said that if legislators don't act to comply with the judgment and to fund such education adequately, plaintiffs would be stuck waiting until the next legislative session a year from now, since it would be unlikely to be able to order state lawmakers into a special session.

Attorney Scott Bales, representing legislative leaders, introduced a letter from Senate President Ken Bennett, R-Prescott, and House Speaker Jim Weiers, R-Phoenix, to the judge saying they intend to refer the cost study to appropriate legislative committees for review.

Hogan said that would fall far short of complying with the court judgment.

Currently, Arizona gives local school districts about $360 for each English-learning student over the basic amount allotted for all students.

An executive summary of a study commissioned by the state in 2001 indicated that English language learning programs should cost about $1,500 per
student, Hogan said in an interview.

Some of difference can be made up from other sources of money, including desegregation funds used by some school districts, Hogan said.

He estimated that there are about 200,000 students learning English in Arizona - or about one in every five students.