Bilingual education classes are not getting enough money from the
state to provide sufficient resources and workers, a federal court
judge ruled yesterday.

In the second part of his ruling, U.S. District Court Judge
Alfredo C. Marquez said he wasn’t convinced the state’s high school
proficiency test students soon must pass to get a diploma
discriminated against minority students.

Marquez did not order the state to take specific action to improve
bilingual education.

But his order did call the current state annual funding of $150
per bilingual education student “arbitrary and capricious” and said
it violated federal civil rights laws.

The ruling came as part of a suit brought against the state by
some parents and students of Nogales Unified School District.

State Sen. Joe Eddie Lopez, D-Phoenix, said he hopes the ruling
will be the catalyst he needs to get his Senate Bill 1242 through the

The bill, similar to one Lopez introduced last year that failed,
would increase the per-student amount for bilingual education
students to $621 a year.

That figure is based on an old state Department of Education cost
study of bilingual education programs plus an adjustment for
inflation, he said.

The bill also calls for establishing a $1 million block grant
program to reimburse tuition for teachers who are trying to get
bilingual education or an English as a Second Language endorsement.

Hector Ayala, co-founder of English for the Children – Arizona, a
statewide initiative effort to dismantle bilingual education, said he
does not understand the court ruling.

“I think that there is plenty of money being funneled into
bilingual ed,” he said.

He also said he doesn’t fear that Marquez’s ruling will negatively
affect his group’s initiative, which he expects will be on the
November ballot.

Ayala said he’s confident voters will approve it.

“I don’t suspect (the federal court ruling) will have any bearing
on our initiative . . . so if the judge mandates more bilingual
education, it might be a moot point when our proposition passes,” he

Leonard Basurto, Tucson Unified School District’s bilingual
education director, said he’s advocated “for quite some time that
$150 per student is not sufficient. It’s not even a beginning. This
ruling now provides lawmakers the justification they need to pass a
bill like Lopez’s.”

Ayala countered that bilingual education was never “legislated.”

Bilingual education was chosen and kept as a method for
politically oriented Hispanics who want to keep the language and the
culture, said Ayala. He argues that much more than the state’s $150
per student goes into bilingual education.

Lisa Graham Keegan, state superintendent of public instruction,
said bilingual education programs receive additional funding from
federal sources.

Her estimate is about $375 per student.

Still, she said, “I think we need to get really serious with our
investments here . . . I have no problem (with more money). We have
to invest in teachers themselves. We do. The system has been
reformed. It’s more responsive, accountable. I think we have to
invest in these programs.”

Ayala said bilingual education has enough money.

“They have money, but it is not being used adequately. It’s not
working because it (bilingual education) doesn’t work.”

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