State attorney: Contempt ruling illegal in English case
Capitol Media Services

Tucson, Arizona | Published:

By Howard Fischer


SAN FRANCISCO The attorney for the state school superintendent argued Tuesday a federal judge illegally held Arizona in contempt for failing to adequately fund programs to teach English to public school students.
Attorney Eric Bistrow didn't dispute that the state has never complied with a 2000 court order to study the cost to properly teach English and then fund programs accordingly. And he conceded the order was never appealed.
But Bistrow told a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is hearing an appeal of Judge Raner Collins' contempt finding and $22 million fine, that the state's lack of action doesn't matter.
The court gave no indication when it will rule on the appeal.
Bistrow said the evidence will show students in the Nogales Unified School District the district cited in the original 1992 lawsuit claiming the state was not meeting its obligations to teach English now are doing much better. That means the failure to do the cost study and provide new funding is irrelevant. Bistrow said.
He said it also means Collins was wrong in ruling the state has yet to comply with his 2000 court order and was wrong in fining the state $22 million for its delays in coming up with another plan a plan that Collins says does not comply with federal law.
That contention drew a sharp rebuttal from Tim Hogan who represents the parents who filed that 1992 action.
Hogan acknowledged that the parents became plaintiffs because the situation there was dire. But he told the court Nogales was just symptomatic of a statewide problem, and the state has yet to show it is providing adequate funding so children statewide can learn English, as required by federal law.
"What it's about is opportunities," Hogan said. "And those opportunities are created by resources. That's one thing the government can control."