An assistant attorney general told a judge Monday he has no legal right to decide whether the state is adequately funding education so that all students can pass AIMS.
Bill Richards told Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Fields that a lawsuit filed on behalf of some students by the William E. Morris Institute for Justice charges that the state is not spending enough to ensure that all students learn what they need.
The lawsuit claims the failure rate for the math, reading and writing sections of Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards, required to graduate, shows that goal is not being met.
Still, Richards said the issue of how much money is provided to schools is none of the court’s business. He asked the judge to throw out the lawsuit.
“There’s nothing in the constitution that says what adequate funding is,’’ Richards said. He said that means it would be impossible for a judge to decide that the funding is inadequate.
Richards’ arguments came just as the state prepared to release the latest AIMS results. The test results from the 2005-06 school year will be announced Wednesday.
Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne told Capitol Media Services on Monday that preliminary figures show only about 2 percent of seniors were denied diplomas. But that figure is not based on the more than 63,000 students in the class of 2006. Instead, Horne said, it is computed on the premise that only about 49,000 of those students would have the credits to graduate, with or without the AIMS requirement.
Attorney Ellen Katz, who is representing the students, said that supports her arguments that the state isn’t doing what it must to guarantee all students an opportunity to learn what they need.
She said some students are not getting the help they need just to pass the required courses. And Katz said the 2 percent failure rate is misleading “because we have one of the highest dropout rates,’’ meaning students don’t stay in school long enough to even take AIMS. She said students more likely to quit include minorities, economically disadvantaged and English learners.
Katz ultimately wants the judge to order the state to fund special assistance programs, including tutoring, after-school programs and smaller class sizes. But in the short term, she wants Fields to block the use of AIMS as a graduation requirement until funding is adequate.
Yet Horne said the lawsuit is based on the flawed premise that more money for “disadvantaged’’ students is the answer. Horne said students who failed one or more sections were offered free tutoring and told what concepts they had failed. “We did everything but get them up in the morning,’’ he said.