As fines mount, Napolitano offers new proposal on English learning issue
The Associated Press


Tucson, Arizona | Published:


PHOENIX - Trying to break a stalemate that has resulted in daily $500,000 fines against the state, Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano sent the Republican-led Legislature a letter Tuesday offering revised proposals on instruction of students learning the English language and a proposed school-choice tax credit.
Napolitano's four-page letter included elements from Republican-sponsored English Language Learning bills that she's vetoed as well as from a Democratic plan that Napolitano supports but which hasn't gotten a hearing at the Legislature.
The letter suggests that a proposed tax credit for business donations for private school tuition grants for ELL students be put into a separate bill, and Napolitano lists provisions that she says it should include to provide accountability.
"I urge you to seriously consider these proposals so that the state can comply with federal laws governing English Language Learners and so that we may put these issues behind us and begin to address the other matters pending this session," Napolitano wrote.
Napolitano and Republicans have been at odds for months over how to satisfy court orders resulting from a class-action lawsuit originally filed in 1992.
A 2000 court order by a federal judge said current programs for approximately 150,000 ELL students violated federal laws for equal opportunities in education.
More recently, a judge ordered the Legislature to spend more money on education for students learning English by a deadline that passed earlier this month or face fines beginning at $500,000 a day. The fines started Jan. 25 and totaled $3 million through Monday.
The Republican bill vetoed by Napolitano would scrap the state's current approach of providing extra dollars for each ELL student and institute a new system in which districts would have to select among instruction models approved by the state and then use a state formula to get funding, with reductions for dollars available from other sources.
Napolitano has said she vetoed the latest Republican bills because they didn't provide the necessary improvements in ELL programs and because Republicans included the tax credit.
Republicans say their approach improved accountability of public school programs while providing an incentive for improvement through competition with private schools. They inserted the tax credit into the ELL bill after Napolitano vetoed a similar school-choice measure not specifically aimed at ELL students