Arizona Increases Funding for English Language Learner Programs

Last Updated: April 01, 2006

This article appeared in the April 2006 Rural Policy Matters.

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An Arizona bill that will increase funding for programs for English Language Learners (ELL) awaits federal district court review before becoming law. The bill passed the Legislature without the signature of Governor Janet Napolitano. In December, a U.S. District judge ordered the state to provide more funding for ELL programs. Since then the state has accrued more than $22 million in fines for failing to come up with a plan to do so. Governor Napolitano had vetoed three prior bills because they included tuition tax credits for private school scholarships.

The current bill, which does not include tuition tax credits, increases spending by $77 per student and limits students to two years in ELL programs. Napolitano and advocates for ELL students maintain that the bill falls short of what is needed to serve the state's 154,000 ELL students and may violate federal laws. In 1992, Flores v. Arizona was filed in federal court, claiming that the State failed to provide instruction for English language learners to make them proficient in English and able to master standard academic curriculum. The December District Court ruling imposed a deadline for meeting the requirements of Flores and set fines for failure to meet that deadline.

The legislation which funds English Language Learner programs in the state passed only after months of debate, and many advocates still find its requirements inadequate.


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