Officials remain divided on English education Napolitano,
GOP stall on firm plan
The Arizona Republic
Feb. 7, 2006
Robbie Sherwood and Chip Scutari
Gov. Janet Napolitano told Republican lawmakers Monday that she agrees with them
on the need to obtain better information to determine how much money the state
should spend to educate children struggling to learn English.
In a letter she described as a "show of goodwill," Napolitano said she agrees on
the need to hold school districts accountable, to make programs cost efficient
and to emphasize immersion in the English language. Still, the two sides remain
far apart on how to satisfy a court order to improve English-learner programs.
Napolitano did not back away from her previous plan for English-learners.
She said Arizona must increase funding for programs immediately, then adjust the
money pending the outcome of a new cost study. Republicans have so far rejected
"We can't wait for the completion of that study to begin addressing the
problem," she wrote in a letter to Senate President Ken Bennett and House
Speaker Jim Weiers.
With daily court-ordered fines of $500,000 a day stacking up, Napolitano wrote
that her letter was designed "in the spirit of fostering further conversation
and progress toward a solution." The daily fines are now up to
A representative of GOP leaders said the letter offered no real compromise on
"A key in a compromise proposal is to make some movement," House GOP spokesman
Barrett Marson said. "There appears to be little movement in the executive's
latest letter. The governor created the expectation by saying on Monday she
would provide a new proposal. What we got today, however, was déjà vu. There is
After vetoing two Republican plans, Napolitano submitted a proposal last week
that would spend about $45 million this year, eventually growing to about $185
million. She said in her letter that figures could be adjusted based on the
outcome of the cost study.
Monday's letter offered an explanation of why the money is needed.
"It is important to think in terms of results. We need students who emerge from
school speaking, reading and writing fluently in English, students who can pass
the AIMS test and who are ready to join and perform in an English-speaking work
force," she wrote.
The Republican plan would increase spending by $31 million for one year but
would then become a grant program with no known price tag because schools would
first have to devote federal funds to the programs before they could ask for
state help. Arizona currently spends about $55 million on English-learner
After Napolitano's first veto, lawmakers capped their unlimited tuition-tax
credit plan at $50 million, but Napolitano rejected that plan. Napolitano's
letter showed she and the Republican-controlled Legislature remain far apart on
key points that include:
• How to fund instruction. Legislative leaders favor a grant program that
requires every district to prove how much money they need. Napolitano wants to
keep a per-pupil funding formula that's used now for all Arizona students.
• Tax credits: GOP lawmakers want corporate tuition tax credits to be an
integral part of any compromise. The donations would divert taxes from public
schools to private schools with scholarships for English-language learners.
Napolitano wants to keep a $5 million cap on the school choice measure, and she
wants to put regulations on private schools that take the state money to provide
adequate English instruction.