Republican legislative leaders rebuffed Gov. Janet Napolitano’s proposed compromise on English instruction funding Tuesday, calling it “insincere window dressing.’’
Napolitano said she would be willing to sign legislation that would let corporations divert some of their income tax obligations — no more than $5 million a year for all companies combined, for no more than five years — to organizations that provide scholarships so students classified as “English language learners’’ could attend private and parochial schools. She twice vetoed more expensive plans last week.
But Senate President Ken Bennett, R-Prescott, called that meaningless because of the strings attached, including subjecting private and parochial schools to some of the same restrictions as public schools.
For example, schools would have to accept all students on a first-come, firstserved basis, provide transportation and meals and use only certified teachers in classrooms with English language learner students. He said that amounted to “government squashing private schools with a bunch of regulations.’’
Bennett was no more impressed with Napolitano’s offer to accept some additional oversight of how funds are spent.
Bennett particularly scoffed at the governor’s offer to study how much it really costs to teach English, pointing out she still wants to boost funding over three years to $1,289 per student — more than triple current levels — even before the study is completed.
The stalemate sends Arizona into its ninth day of being out of compliance with a deadline to come up with an acceptable funding plan to make all students proficient in English. Fines, at $500,000 a day, will hit $4.5 million.
What will be done with those dollars still remains uncertain: U.S. District Court Judge Raner Collins agreed Tuesday to give the governor, the Legislature and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne until 5 p.m. Wednesday to offer suggestions.
Collins ruled last week the funds should be set aside to help involved students. He noted the state has yet to comply with a 2000 order to improve funding to a level necessary to meet federal laws that hold the state responsible for making all students proficient in English.