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 Legislature.
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 said.
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.”