Judge asked to force state action on ELL programs
May. 2, 2006
A federal judge should prod the Legislature into revisiting the adequacy of
programs for students learning the English language now that the judge has ruled
that a new state law doesn't comply with previous court orders, attorneys for
lawsuit plaintiffs said Tuesday.
"Based on the public statements of the defendants, it is clear that they have no
intention of complying with the court's judgment and orders pending the outcome
of their appeals," the plaintiffs' attorneys said in a filing with U.S. District
Judge Raner C. Collins.
The attorneys asked Collins to either hold a hearing to discuss the effect of
Collins's April 25 order or "clarify that the order is effective and requires
compliance with the judgment entered in this case." Republican legislative
leaders and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne, also a
Republican, reacted to the April 25 ruling by saying no action was needed
because the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had issued a stay while it
considers an appeal filed by Horne of two previous orders by Collins.
However, the lawsuit plaintiffs' attorneys said in their filing Tuesday that the
stay didn't stay the lower court's judgment "and the need for the defendants to
comply with it."
The 14-year-old case has resulted in the state accruing $21 million in daily
fines ordered by Collins for failing to meet a deadline. The fines stopped when
the Republican-led Legislature passed the new law March 2, and parties in the
case disagree on what impact, if any, the latest ruling would have on the fines.
Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano opposed the Republican-drafted measure as
inadequate and vetoed three previous versions. However, she let the latest
version become law without her signature in hopes that Collins would reject it
and compel lawmakers to do more.
Collins ruled April 25 that the new law doesn't adequately fund ELL programs,
fails to spell out the costs of providing those programs and doesn't explain the
basis for the funding that it does provide.
His ruling also said the state law violates federal law by requiring
subtractions for federal funding and by imposing a two-year limit on funding for
The law would increase the state's supplemental funding for each ELL student to
$432 from the current $358 and would also require school districts and charter
schools to use new instructional models to be approved by the state.
Districts and charter schools also would be eligible for additional funding
based on the costs of the models but would have to subtract some federal dollars
they already receive.
The law's supporters said it would fund ELL programs while ensuring that they
use effective methods of instruction. Napolitano and other opponents contend the
extra funding was inadequate and that the subtraction of federal dollars was
The stay issued April 6 by the 9th Circuit blocked orders issued by Collins in
December and March. Those orders set fines for the state for missing a January
deadline and distributed the money to public schools for ELL programs.