A federal judge looked at how Arizona educates children with limited English skills and stated the obvious: The state has to do better.

Judge Alfredo Marquez ruled last week that Arizona discriminates against the 113,000 students who don’t speak English well by starving the system that’s supposed to educate them.

The state’s behavior is remarkably shortsighted considering that the population of limited-English students in Arizona has more than doubled in the past decade. It represents an inexcusable failure to help prepare them — and Arizona — to succeed.

Worse yet, the state didn’t need a federal judge to bring the problem to its attention. It knew all along. A 1988 study showed that it costs an additional $464 a year to educate each limited-English student. The state provides only $162 of that.

School districts pick up the slack. They pay the extra cost of educating these students, a fact that negates the tired, old argument that schools keep students locked into bilingual programs simply for the extra money that the state provides.

There are a lot of tired, old arguments about bilingual education. They reflect more passion than reason and do little to further the goal of educating tomorrow’s Arizonans.

Bilingual education is a valuable tool for educating children who have limited English skills. But it can’t be expected to work if it doesn’t get the funding it needs.

That’s pretty basic logic. It shouldn’t take a federal judge to point it out.

But now that Judge Marquez has thrown his wisdom into the discussions, Arizona has one more reason to heed the call of those, like state Sen. Joe Eddie Lopez, who want increased funding and monitoring of programs for students with limited English skills.

Arizona already had 113,000 other reasons to do the right thing.

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