Governor to present new proposal on English learning
Associated Press
Feb. 3, 2006

Gov. Janet Napolitano said Friday she will present the Legislature with a new proposal in hopes of ending a stalemate that has the state paying daily $500,000 fines for missing a court deadline to revamp programs for students learning the English language.

The Democratic governor sent two top Republican legislative leaders a brief letter in which she said they had mischaracterized parts of her most recent proposal but that their critique also "raises some good points that I am willing to agree upon and work through with you."

"I will be prepared on Monday to provide you with a proposal that I believe can move this issue forward and resolve it positively for our children," she wrote.

Meanwhile, Napolitano, legislators and others involved in the issue waited for a federal judge in Tucson to rule on what should be done with the accumulating fine money, $4.5 million as of Friday.

The state has a growing budget surplus so paying the fines haven't affected other programs.

Napolitano vetoed three bills passed by the Republican-led Legislature, including one last May and two in January before the deadline, and efforts to forge a compromise have so far failed.

Under Collins' Dec. 16 order imposing a deadline for state action 15 days after the start of the Jan. 9 session, the daily fines will increase to $1 million after 30 days, $1.5 million 30 days later and $2 million at the end of the current legislative session.

Another federal judge ruled in 2000 that the state's current programs violate federal laws guaranteeing equal opportunities in education, falling short in such areas as teacher training, class size and instruction material.

Republicans want to scrap Arizona's current per-student funding system and instead require districts to adopt state approved instruction models and then receive cost-based funding for each model after subtracting available federal and local dollars.

Napolitano wants to more than triple the current funding over three years. She also has objected to Republicans' inclusion of a new corporate income tax credit for businesses' donations for private school tuition grants for ELL students.


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