The attorney representing parents in the state English learner lawsuit asked a federal judge Friday to rule the $40.6 million lawmakers appropriated last month is not enough.
Tim Hogan said the formula used by the state to decide who gets money is illegal. It cut the funds requested by many school districts and left some districts with no extra cash at all, he said.
As a result of that lack of adequate funds, Hogan wants U.S. District Judge Raner Collins to suspend the requirement in the new state law that schools begin providing four hours a day of intense English instruction to students who come to school speaking another language.
That request drew a sharp response from state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne.
"By asking to suspend that, what he has shown is that he does not really care about the students," Horne said. "He cares about the ideology."
Horne said the average school now is providing just one hour a day of intense English instruction. "It's no wonder students aren't learning English," he said.
The superintendent said that while he believes schools will have enough money for the four hours of instruction, he understands Hogan's argument to the contrary. He said questions of funding can be worked out in court.
But Horne said the evidence clearly shows that students will learn more with four hours a day of English. "He's willing to sacrifice the education of the kids to win points in the lawsuit," Horne said.
Hogan responded that it is Horne who is showing a lack of concern for students. He said it is clear the four-hour-a-day programs mandated by the law will cost more than what most schools already are spending.
"School districts are going to have to take that money from somewhere else," he said. Hogan said forcing them to divert funds for English learner programs will undermine basic education for all Arizona children.
"If it's such a good idea, let them pony up the money," he said.
Central to the dispute is a federal law requiring the state to ensure that all students have an opportunity to learn English.
A federal judge first ruled the state out of compliance eight years ago. Since that time lawmakers have tinkered with the funding formula, each time having the court reject it as not proving it is adequate to do the job.
The latest plan sets up teaching "models" for all schools to follow, including putting affected students into separate classes for four hours a day where the only thing taught is English. Schools were then told to submit requests to fund the program.
Hogan said the $272 million in requests was illegally pared by Horne to $40.6million.