Wed January 25, 2006
Legislature Approves 2nd English Learner Plan
By Howard Fischer
Phoenix, AZ – The measure pushed through by the Republican majority is virtually identical to the one vetoed. It requires schools to choose an acceptable method of teaching students classified as English language learners, compute the cost, figure out what other funds they have available and then seek the balance from the state. But the first version of the bill allowed corporations to divert any of the money they owe in state income taxes to instead provide scholarships for these ELL students
to attend private or parochial schools. The governor, in vetoing that bill Tuesday afternoon, pointed out that if every company took advantage of the credit it
would eat $850 million out of the state's billion dollar surplus -- and, specifically, out of programs and tax cuts she hopes to fund with that extra cash.
(It means no teacher pay raise, no ability of the state of Arizona to pay back its debts, no health insurance credit for small businesses, no money for border security. All it means is that the Legislature yet
again has failed to fully and fairly address the issue of English language instruction.)
The new version of the bill -- the one approved late Tuesday -- still has a corporate tax credit. But this time it is capped at no more than $50 million a year
combined for all companies throughout the state. The action technically means the state has complied with the order by U.S. District Court Judge Raner Collins to come up with a funding plan before today or face fines starting at half a million dollars a day. The judge said he will give the Democratic governor the five days to which she is entitled under the state constitution to decide whether to sign the measure, veto it or allow it to become law without her signature. Republican Rep.
Gary Pierce said even if she doesn't like it she should not reject it but instead let Collins review it and decide if it complies with his order.
(If we're wrong on that, let the judge tell us. And let him tell us why. But we can play this game a long time. But as for me, I'm done with it. And many of you feel
the same way. What the governor needs to do is pass this along.)
Napolitano left Tuesday evening before final legislative action. Jeanine L'Ecuyer, her press aide, said the governor wants some time to study the bill before making a decision. If Napolitano vetoes the bill, those half-million dollar daily fines will begin accumulating. But Napolitano made it clear Tuesday she has made contingency plan to keep the possibility of fines from forcing her into signing this new version if she finds it unacceptable. At her request, Attorney General Terry Goddard filed legal papers Tuesday asking
Collins to direct that any penalties imposed not be forfeited to the federal government but instead put into a special fund to be used to teach English --
meaning no net loss of tax dollars whenever a new plan eventually is approved.
(I think the legal research that has been done is very, very strong that this fine can and should be devoted to the aggrieved parties. And that is the children of our
In Phoenix, for Arizona Public Radio this is Howard Fischer.