Ell Politics Abandons Kids

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While Superintendent of Instruction Tom Horne and the Arizona Legislature play politics with ELL, students in Payson and around the state continue to struggle to master the English language.

An Arizona State University study found only 11 percent of ELL students were classified as fluent in English and that the achievement gap between language learners and other students is increasing in reading and math.

Money is not a cure-all, but adequate and reasonable funding for effective programs is the only way to guarantee Arizona's students learn English well enough to do their class work.

Once those English language learners achieve a high level of education, they have the potential to become contributing members of the state's work force.

But, Horne and the Legislature continue to involve themselves in foolish shenanigans rather than reaching agreement with Gov. Janet Napolitano on how to provide programs for Arizona's children.

The most recent tomfoolery surfaced when Horne filed an appeal asking the court to reverse U.S. District Court Judge Raner Collins' decision to return $21 million in court fines to Arizona schools.

The money was collected in fines after the Legislature failed to act on Collins' earlier order to adequately fund ELL programs.

Collins had instructed that the money be dispersed to the districts as soon as possible.

Horne's appeal puts an end to that funding source and districts are left wondering when, and if, the money can be put to good use.

This roadblock comes only months after Arizona lawmakers offered up a marginally acceptable bill that would fund English-learner programs, but then tacked on dollar-for-dollar tax credits for corporations and individuals who donate to private schools.

Napolitano didn't take the bait and vetoed the bill, challenging lawmakers to pass legislation that would fund ELL programs without the special interest additions.

When the Legislature finally passed a new bill that would fund ELL, the governor allowed it to become law without her signature.

Rather than veto the bill, she said after nine months and three vetoes, it was time to let the matter be decided by a federal judge.

In refusing to sign the bill, Napolitano said it didn't adequately fund ELL programs, failed to ensure academic accountability, violated federal laws and created a new bureaucracy and excess paperwork.

On April 3 in Tucson, Collins will hear arguments and decide on the adequacy of the new bill.

In all the politicking that has occurred in funding English Language instruction, one fact is certain, there are some in the state house who have forgotten what's really important -- the kids.

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