Feb. 19, 2005
PHOENIX - Arizona
lawmakers need to spend more than $200
million more than they do now to
properly fund programs to teach English
to kids who come to school without that
as their primary language, a new study
By Howard Fischer
It says $200M
more is needed to get job done
The report by the
National Conference of State
Legislatures released Friday said the
$355 per student the state now provides
covers nowhere near the cost of properly
doing the job. That was the same
conclusion of a federal judge who
ordered the study in the first place.
Instead, the report says
spending needs to be boosted by an
average of $1,195 for each of the
approximately 175,000 students in
Arizona schools who have limited English
language skills. It also says that extra
funding could be twice as much for some
students in lower grades who have only
limited grasp of English.
Attorney Tim Hogan, who
represents parents who sued more than a
dozen years ago, said the additional
funds would provide smaller classes and
better-trained teachers. Hogan said he
hopes this study finally persuades
lawmakers to act.
"They've been dragging
their feet for five years trying to
figure out ways to avoid their funding
obligation for these kids," he said.
"They want these kids to meet impossibly
high standards. But they've just refused
to give them the resources they need to
A spokesman for Senate
Republican leadership, Nick Simonetta,
said lawmakers are studying the report.
But he said there is no guarantee
additional funds will be forthcoming.
In fact, Rep. Russell
Pearce, R-Mesa, said lawmakers may defy
the order issued last month by U.S.
District Court Judge Raner Collins to
come up with the cash by the end of this
legislative session to properly fund
programs to teach English.
Pearce, who heads a House
Appropriations Committee, acknowledged
the judge could withhold the $400
million a year the state gets in federal
highway funds. But Pearce said he
doubted Collins would do that.
"And when do you stand up
for what's right?" he said. Pearce said
Collins has no right to tell lawmakers
how much cash is needed to teach
That's not true, said
Hogan. He said federal law requires
states to ensure that all students have
adequate instruction in English.
Rep. Peter Rios,
D-Hayden, said the study confirms the
state has been short-changing its
"English-language learners." Rios said
the Republicans who control the budget
should not balk at getting kids to learn
English, "especially now" that Pearce
and other Republicans want a
constitutional amendment to have English
declared the official language of the
But the funding problem
is not limited to Republicans. The
proposed budget submitted by Democratic
Gov. Janet Napolitano does not include
funds to comply with the order even
though Napolitano knew the court-ordered
study was going to be completed. And her
budget does not have that much extra
cash for contingencies.