Federal

Impasse in Arizona

By Mary Ann Zehr — November 15, 2005 1 min read
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Timothy M. Hogan, a public-interest lawyer who is advocating that Arizona provide more money to schools to teach English-language learners, got a chance to name in court recently several public officials who, in his belief, deserve to go to jail.

U.S. District Judge Raner C. Collins held a hearing Oct. 31 on Mr. Hogan’s request that the federal government withhold funding for federal highway construction from Arizona because the state legislature and the governor haven’t figured out how to provide adequate funding for schools to teach the state’s 185,000 English-language learners.

“The judge was a little frustrated with trying to figure out a solution to the problem,” Mr. Hogan, the executive director of the Phoenix-based Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, said last week. “Half-kiddingly, half-seriously, he asked who I thought needed to be put in jail.”

Mr. Hogan named Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat; Senate President Ken Bennett, a Republican; and Speaker of the House James P. Weiers, a Republican.

Those are the people heading the list of public officials who haven’t complied with the court’s earlier ruling in Flores v. Arizona to provide adequate funding for students learning English, he said.

Judge Collins ruled on Jan. 25 of this year that the legislature had until the end of April or the end of the 2005 legislative session—whichever was later—to find a solution to the problem.

The legislature, whose session ended in May, has made “a good-faith effort” to resolve the issue, said Andrea Esquer, the press secretary for Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, a Democrat. The state’s answer to Judge Collins’ question is that “it wouldn’t be appropriate to jail anyone,” Ms. Esquer said.

She said lawmakers passed legislation at the end of legislative session that would have provided more money for schools to teach English-language learners, but Gov. Napolitano vetoed the bill.

So, the state missed the deadline set by the federal judge.

Ms. Napolitano believed the level of funding provided in the bill wasn’t sufficient, Jeanine L’Ecuyer, the governor’s communications director, said last week. “She further believed it wouldn’t pass muster with the court.”

As of late last week, the judge had not ruled on the Oct. 31 hearing.

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