New flap on funds to teach English
Capitol Media Services

By Howard Fischer Tucson, Arizona | Published:


PHOENIX Republican legislative leaders accused Gov. Janet Napolitano on Wednesday of inserting even more demands into her plan to fund English learners one they said could actually land the state back in court.
House Speaker Jim Weiers said the governor's latest proposal seeks more than just funds to ensure that all students learn English, as required by federal law. He said her plan also seeks to finance programs to help students "master the academic standards" adopted by the state Board of Education standards measured by the AIMS test.
Weiers said those funds would not be available to everyone else, giving students classified as English-language learners an unfair if not illegal advantage because it would discriminate against the 85 percent of Arizona students who are not English learners and would not be eligible for the extra funding.
Gubernatorial press aide Jeanine L'Ecuyer said there is money in the state budget to help all students pass AIMS, such as fund for tutoring and a requirement for schools to take special action when students are not reading at grade level.
But L'Ecuyer said the language in the governor's plan doesn't necessarily mean money specifically to help English learners pass AIMS.
The latest squabbles over small points like this leave both sides no closer to resolving the bigger dispute of how to finance English-learner programs a failure that, as of today, already has resulted in $8 million in fines against the state for failing to meet a court-imposed deadline.
Both sides say they have compromised. Another meeting is set for today.
But neither side has been willing to budge from the central financing issue.
Republicans want a system in which each school identifies its planned method of teaching English, computes the cost, uses some federal money and then seeks the balance from the state. Napolitano, by contrast, wants to expand the existing system, in which schools get money based on the number of English learners, from $355 now to $1,289 for each of the estimated 150,000 affected students.