Published Online: January 17, 2007
Published in Print: January 17, 2007, as High School Graduation Requirements Focus of Arizona Governor’s Address

State of the States

High School Graduation Requirements Focus of Arizona Governor’s Address

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Gov. Janet Napolitano used her Jan. 8 State of the State address to propose increasing the minimum requirements for high school graduation in Arizona and raising the age at which youths there can drop out of school.

“The workforce demands better graduates, and more of them,” the recently re-elected governor, a Democrat, said in her address.

Gov. Janet Napolitano

Ms. Napolitano, who is chairwoman of the National Governors Association, proposed requiring high school graduates to take four years of mathematics and three years of science. Currently, Arizona requires graduates to have taken only two years of math and two of science, according to Becky Hill, the governor’s education adviser.

In addition, the governor said, the minimum age for dropping out should be increased from 16 to 18.

Some of Gov. Napolitano’s other education plans were refinements of proposals she had made in her first term. She said in her speech, for example, that the state should set a minimum starting salary for teachers of $33,000. In her address the previous year, she had said teacher salaries should be increased so that every teacher makes at least $30,000 a year. The state raised salaries for teachers last year but didn’t set a minimum. Starting salaries in Arizona range from $20,000 to $35,000, according to Ms. Hill.

The governor didn’t mention in last week’s address a contentious education issue in the previous legislative session: how Arizona should meet a federal court ruling in the case of Flores v. Arizona to adequately fund programs for English-language learners.

In March of last year, the governor broke a stalemate with Arizona legislators by letting a bill become law without her signature that spelled out how to pay for programs for such students. U.S. District Judge Raner Collins ruled in April 2006 that the law fell short of the court’s previous order. A federal appeals court, however, overturned that ruling, holding that the judge needed to hold an evidentiary hearing to re-examine the central issue in the case. ("Appeals Court Rejects Orders for English-Learners in Arizona," Aug. 30, 2006.)

Four days of hearings were scheduled last week for a federal judge to hear testimony on the matter.

Timothy M. Hogan, the lawyer for the plaintiffs, wrote in a recent e-mail message that at the request of the attorney for the Arizona legislature, he had proposed terms for a settlement of the 15-year-old case. He proposed that at a minimum, school districts would receive $675 of additional funds to educate each English-language learner.

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