Federal judge tells stingy politicians, again, 'Sí, yo
Apr. 27, 2006
Some of you might look at all of the time and money that state legislators have
wasted on trying not to provide adequate funding for Arizona schoolchildren who
need to learn English and say, "Boy, they must really hate those kids."
In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. The people running the show at
the state Legislature don't hate Spanish-speaking children. They hate the
parents of such children.
At least they pretend to hate them. Perhaps because hating the parents of kids
struggling to learn English is one of the best things they've got going for
themselves, politically. Instead of blaming the problems of our state and our
nation on the men and women who have been passing the laws and spending the
taxes for all these years - in other words, themselves - our politicians have
successfully shifted the blame onto a group of individuals who don't vote, have
no power and who can't defend themselves in a language that most voters
On Wednesday, a federal judge rejected the latest English-learner spending plan
as inadequate. It was only the most recent time in the past 14 years that courts
have ruled against our legislators.
It was back in 1992 when a group of parents from Nogales filed a lawsuit against
the state claiming that Arizona's public schools didn't do enough to teach
English to children who were not yet proficient. Lawyers at the Arizona Center
for Law in the Public Interest won that case in 2000, but the people we've
elected to office have continued to fight it, trying to shift responsibility for
their failures onto "do-gooders" at the center or onto "activist" judges, which
is the label given to any judge who happens to rule against them.
The latest is U.S. District Court Judge Raner Collins, who issued the latest
decision in the case. Gov. Janet Napolitano had rejected the Legislature's early
proposals for English-learner funding, saying that they were inadequate. She
finally gave in and tossed the ball to the judge's court by passing along a plan
that she still believed to be inadequate. And it was.
Still, each time a judge rules against them, our politicians step forward to
condemn him and then try to find way of saying that a judge can't force them to
do anything. In this instance, the judge's ruling can be summed up with a
variation of the rallying cry currently used by immigration advocates: "Sí, yo
puedo." (Yes, I can.)
The Republicans controlling the Legislature along with state School
Superintendent Tom Horne disagree with that view, however. They want to continue
the fight, as they have all these years. But that's not what Tim Hogan of the
Center for Law in the Public Interest hopes will happen.
"The real issue here is whether or not the Legislature is going to take this up
and get something done while budget discussions are going on," he told me
Wednesday. "What we need is a plan that is actually going to help these kids.
It's not like they are disappearing anytime soon. The politicians can talk all
they want about deporting 11 million people, but that is not happening. And the
vast majority of these kids are American citizens anyway."
We should have started tracking these children in 1992, when the state first
decided that funding a long court case was a better use of our money than
preparing students to succeed in life and stay off government assistance and out
Because the irony of our situation - or the stupidity - is that by not paying
for undereducated kids, we'll pay even more for undereducated adults.
Reach Montini at (602) 444-8978 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his
blog at montiniblog.azcentral.com.