Senate leader pushes for new English-learner bill
Associated Press
Feb. 22, 2006

Paul Davenport

With increased fines for Arizona on the horizon, state Senate President Ken Bennett said Tuesday that he wants the Legislature to approve a new bill this week to revamp programs for instruction of students learning the English language.

Bennett told fellow Republican senators that he would brief them in detail today on the status of talks between Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano and House and Senate leaders from each party.

Napolitano has vetoed three versions of a Republican plan to scrap the state's current approach of providing additional dollars to public schools for each English-learning student. The plan also would have implemented a new system of paying actual costs of new state-approved instruction models, with subtractions for dollars from other sources.

Napolitano's own plan, which calls for a tripling of current per-student funding, hasn't been brought to a vote by the GOP-controlled Legislature.

A federal judge ordered the fines, $500,000 a day now but $1 million starting on Friday, to force compliance with another judge's ruling that the state's current programs are inadequately funded, producing shortfalls in such areas as teacher training, instruction material and class size.

Bennett's comments during a Senate Republican caucus came as several GOP senators said constituents blame the Legislature's Republican majority, not Napolitano, for the stalemate.

"This is starting to come back on us," said Sen. Carolyn Allen, R-Scottsdale.

Bennett said he still holds to a goal of reaching consensus on the issue but wants lawmakers to act regardless.

"We need to act by getting a bill up this week," he said.

Other GOP senators urged colleagues to hold firm, with one saying there should be little political fallout for them.

Voters tend to blame an entire legislative body but not individual legislators, said Sen. Ron Gould of Lake Havasu City.

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