Governor, GOP clash again on English proposal
Feb. 8, 2006
Republican legislative leaders on Wednesday attacked Democratic Gov. Janet
Napolitano's latest proposal to revamp programs for students learning the
The leaders said a two-word change would put the state on a costly and unfair
course to ensure that English-learning students pass the AIMS test, but not give
a corresponding boost to students who already speak English.
Napolitano's office denied that the wording change would have that effect, and
she criticized Republicans for failing to match her new proposal with one of
their own to help end a stalemate that has the state accumulating daily $500,000
fines - a total of $7.5 million through Wednesday.
"I can't compromise with myself," Napolitano said. "They've got to come to the
A federal court has ruled that the state's current programs for approximately
150,000 English Language Learning students violate a federal law requiring equal
opportunities in education, falling short in such areas as teacher training,
class size and instructional material.
Napolitano has vetoed three Republican bills, one last May and two in January,
that would scrap the state's current approach of providing public schools with
extra dollars for each ELL student and instead provide money based on reported
actual costs for instruction under state-approved models.
Republicans have refused to consider the governor's proposal. It is based on
keeping the current approach but tripling the funding, and she objects to their
inclusion of a new corporate income tax credit for business donations for
private school tuition grants.
House Speaker Jim Weiers, R-Phoenix, and Senate President Ken Bennett,
R-Phoenix, raised concerns about draft legislation released Tuesday by
Napolitano, saying it would place new burdens on the state to help ELL students
but not others.
Weiers and Bennett pointed to new wording that would allow money in a proposed
ELL fund to be used only for teaching English-learners to read, write and speak
English and "to master" academic standards adopted by the state Board of
The addition of the words "to master" would mean that the state would guarantee
both that ELL students attain proficiency in the academic standards measured by
the AIMS test and also pass the math, reading and writing test itself, the GOP
"There's no special fund anywhere in the K-12 system that gives that type of
guarantee or special funding for the other 85 percent of the students,"
"She is making changes but she is not going forward," Weiers said. "She is
literally going backwards."
Napolitano spokeswoman Jeanine L'Ecuyer said the legislators' interpretation is
wrong and that the language reflects a voter-approved preference in state law
for placing English-learning students in immersion programs in which academic
subjects are taught nearly all in English.
"These are just red herrings," L'Ecuyer said of the Republicans' criticism.
A Democratic legislator who sponsored bills to formally introduce Napolitano's
previous proposal said the GOP leaders apparently mistook what amounts to a goal
statement for a mandate.
"They're reading too much into it," said Rep. David Lujan, D-Phoenix. "This is
just to bring English-learners up the same level of the other students."
On the Net:
Arizona Legislature: http://www.azleg.gov