Different view of English-learner progress
Jan. 24, 2009
Tom Horne -
In his Jan. 15
column "Kids still losers in English-learner suit," columnist E.J. Montini
suggests that I only care about funneling money to rich lawyers and do not care
about teaching students English. Wow.
By contrast, here is what the Federal District Court itself said about me (with
Arizona Department of Education (A.D.E.)
is doing much more than it was in 2000 (before I took office), with regard to
creating standards, norms and oversight for Arizona's public schools and
students with regard to ELL (English-language learners) programs. It is apparent
that the A.D.E. has taken its role seriously and is endeavoring to establish
appropriate standards and goals for all students in Arizona."
We eliminated bilingual education in which students learned virtually no
English. For the first time this year, we are insisting that schools give each
language learner at least four hours a day of intensive English-language
instruction. The prior average was half hour to one hour.
Last year, three districts implemented the new models that we are now requiring
of all schools. As a result, the percentage of ELL students becoming English
proficient has doubled.
While acknowledging my hard work for English-language learners, the Federal
District Court refused to dismiss the case because it felt the Legislature had
not supplied sufficient funds. We now spend more than $300 extra per
English-language learner, ($40 million) above and beyond what we provide to our
Tim Hogan wants the court to force the Legislature to increase this to $300
Since I persuaded the Court of Appeals to reverse a judge's punitive fines and
have demanded that schools justify each expense they require to teach students
English, I have saved Arizona taxpayers more than $260 million.
Montini wrote, "Apparently, what Mr. Horne meant when he said, 'We don't need an
aristocracy of federal judges' is that he doesn't need judges who disagree with
No E.J., that's not what I intended to say.
Here's what I was saying: Even in medieval England, matters of taxation and
spending were for Parliament, not for the monarchy or the judges.
If you disagree with an elected official, you can work to elect someone else. If
you disagree with a judge, all you can do is shake your fist at the sky.
So people who believe in self-government believe the proper role of judges is to
apply the law to individual cases - where we want decision makers to be
independent of popular passions - but not to determine policies regarding
taxation and spending, which the people should decide through their elected
By accepting my request for argument on our issue, which it denies in 99 percent
of cases, the U.S. Supreme Court has shown that it is sensitive to this
important philosophical issue of self-government.
Because the issue is $260 million per year of unjustified expenses, the cost of
taking this to the U.S. Supreme Court is a bargain.
Tom Horne is the superintendent of public instruction in Arizona