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