Little progress on English issue, Napolitano says
Feb. 15, 2006
Gov. Janet Napolitano said Wednesday that she and legislative leaders have made
little progress in talks aimed at resolving an education funding issue that has
resulted in the state getting hit with $11 million worth of fines.
"We're meeting. I can't say that we're making great progress. We're meeting but
I think we're still pretty far apart," Napolitano said during her weekly
availability with reporters.
Napolitano vetoed three bills passed by the Republican-led Legislature to revamp
programs for students learning the English language and the state missed a Jan.
25 deadline set by a federal judge to comply with a federal law requiring equal
opportunities in education.
One of the vetoes occurred last May. The other two were last month.
The daily fines imposed by U.S. District Judge Raner C. Collins began at
$500,000 and will gradually increase to $2 million by the end of the current
legislative session if the state hasn't acted to the court's satisfaction.
Another federal judge ruled in 2000 that the state's English Language Learning
programs are not in compliance with the law, falling short in such areas as
teacher training, instructional material and class size.
For now at least, the fine money remains in the state treasury but Collins is
considering a motion by lawyers for the state asking that the state be ordered
to begin distributing the money to schools on a per-ELL student basis.
As governor, Napolitano decided that position and it has support from Democratic
legislative leaders and from the class-action plaintiffs whose lawsuit produced
the court orders.
Republican legislative leaders and state Superintendent of Public Instruction
Tom Horne, also a Republican, have asked Collins to instead let the state keep
the fine money until the issue is resolved and apply it to any eventual
Napolitano has called for retaining the current approach of providing district
and charter schools with additional dollars for each ELL student but more than
tripling that amount.
Republicans want to replace the current system with a new one in which the state
would approve funding needed by each district or charter school to implement
state-approved instruction models.