For the second day in a row, Democratic Gov. Janet
Napolitano rejected a Republican-backed plan to help
children who don't speak English because it contained
corporate tuition tax credits for private-school
Her latest move could trigger $500,000-a-day fines from a
federal judge for violating the! deadline to fix the state's
instruction plan for English-language learners. The fines
could grow to $2 million a day if lawmakers don't get a plan
to U.S. District Judge Raner Collins by the end of the
legislative session. Much like her previous veto, Napolitano
pinned her veto on a provision that allows a tuition-tax
credit for private-school scholarships.
"Remarkably this bill actually allows for more funds to go
toward ELL education in private schools than it does for
such education in our public schools," Napolitano wrote in
her veto message today.
Republicans, however, say Napolitano is dead wrong
because their bill would spend more than $80 million on
public school programs for English language learners. They
point out that's more than $50 million that could be spent
on tuition tax credits for private school scholarships.
Napolitano has scheduled a 2 p.m. press conference to
discuss her latest veto..
On Tuesday night, Republicans capped the tuition-tax credit
plan at $50 million, but Napolitano has made it clear that
she does not want tax credits in any English learner bill.
Napolitano is urging lawmakers to fix their bill in an
emergency special se! ssion sometime today; a day after
legislators quickly worked to pass bill late last night.
The 1992 case Flores vs. Arizona has prompted the
legislative drama. It found that current funding wasn't
enough to ensure that students overcame language barriers.
The case is an extension of the Equal Education Opportunity
Act of 1974, a federal law that prohibits states from
denying education opportunities based on race, color, sex or
national origin. In a 2000 ruling, a federal judge wrote
that there were too many students in a classroom, not enough
qualified teachers and teacher aids, and insufficient
teaching materials to help kids learn English.
About 154,000 students in Arizona speak foreign languages,
mostly Spanish, and are struggling to learn English. That
has contributed to Arizona's high dropout rate and sparked a
class-action lawsuit 14 years ago. Administrators in school
districts with large immigrant populations have said they
need extra money to shrink ! the size of classes, update
materials and equipment, to provide individual instruction
and to better train teachers.
Lawmakers are finding that there aren't any easy answers to
solve this issue. Unlike allocating money for breakfast
programs or algebra textbooks, teaching language skills
varies from city to city.
The Republican plan would spend an additional $31 million
next year on English-language-learner programs, though more
than $7 million of that is for administrative expenses,
testing and auditing. Arizona already spends about $55
million, or about $360 per English Language Learner
But after one year, schools would have to apply for state
grants for English-language programs, and only after they
had applied any federal education funding they were
receiving to address the problem. The grant requests could
be rejected by Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom
Horne and lawmakers if the schools are judged to be not
spending enough of their fed! eral education and
desegregation dollars on English-language programs.
Napolitano has a plan that would spend an additional $45
million this year, and eventually up to $185 million a year,
to help children learn English. Republican leaders have so
far refused to consider the plan because they believe it
spends too much and is not based on a credible cost study.
On Tuesday afternoon, Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard
asked Judge Collins to set aside any fines for an eventual