Leave laws to legislators - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Leave laws to legislators

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Posted: Saturday, August 6, 2005 6:30 am | Updated: 8:06 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Tim Hogan apparently has never seen a problem that couldn’t be fixed by throwing tax dollars at it. And if elected officials don’t throw enough, he’ll sue in hopes of finding a judge who’ll order them to. And if they still balk he’ll demand the judge cut off funding for a vital public function.

Hogan is executive dirctor of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, whose purpose is to sue state government for more money. One of his ongoing legal crusades has been to jack up funds for school district English-learner programs. Districts now get hundreds of supplemental dollars for each English-learner, but Hogan insists lagging tests scores among minority students is proof more is needed.

He urged District Court Judge Raner Collins this week to cut off all of Arizona’s federal highway funds — about $536 million last year — until the Legislature ponies up.

This is a terrible way to make public policy. First, more money doesn’t necessarily translate to improved services. Second, judges have no business dictating public policy.

The Legislature did in fact approve boosting per-student English-learner funding this year, but Gov. Janet Napolitano vetoed it as insufficient. More likely, though, she didn’t like the accountability standards built into the measure that would have required educators to show results for the money spent.

Hogan’s use of lagging test scores to back his demand for more English-learner dollars is flawed because the problem is present even among English-speaking minority groups. Socio-economic factors play a big part in student performance, as does culture (Asians outperform even whites). All of which poses complex challenges for educators that demand thoughtful strategies, which may or may not require some targeted supplemental funds to implement.

The public education establishment, of course, prefers Napolitano’s and Hogan’s approach — more money with no accountability. Legislative leaders rightly refuse to comply, insisting more money be tied to performance.

That is sound public policy. We hope the governor will recognize that, sit down with legislative leaders and hammer out a workable plan that ensures any additional tax dollars are spent wisely.

We also hope Judge Collins will reject Hogan’s demand and leave the legislating to the Legislature.

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