Activist judge? This epic case needs activistby Tucson Citizen on Mar. 21, 2006, under Editorial
Citizen Staff Writer
A federal judge complained more than three months ago about “extensive lawyering” in the case involving state funding to teach English to students.
Now, just as the judge has ordered money spent to help students, Republican legislative leaders are siccing lawyers on the case again, sure to bring about another delay in the 14-year saga.
Particularly ludicrous was the reaction of House Majority leader Steve Tully, R-Phoenix. He said U.S. District Judge Raner Collins was “not elected for this” and labeled him “an activist judge working with an activist governor.”
It’s about time someone decided to become an activist.
We wouldn’t be in this mess if legislators, who by the way were elected for this, had not been so passive about it for more than a decade.
In 1992, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of a Nogales family whose third-grade daughter spoke only Spanish but was placed in classes where only English was spoken.
That pupil now is a University of Arizona student. But the cause that drove her family to court remains unresolved.
In December, Collins correctly perceived that the Legislature would do nothing to address the issue unless he threatened it with a club: fines starting at $500,000 a day and escalating to $2 million a day until there was a state plan to teach English and adequate funding attached.
Even that did little to prod legislators to act. Some $21 million in fines accumulated. But because the money was held in a state fund, legislators were unconcerned.
The Legislature passed a halfhearted resolution to the matter this month. Gov. Janet Napolitano let it become law without her signature, hoping Collins would reject it and make legislators get serious.
It won’t be known until after an April 3 hearing if Collins will accept the Legislature’s plan. Last week, he ordered that the $21 million in fines be distributed to school districts to help English learners.
Lawmakers went apoplectic.
Collins’ ruling makes sense. Fines were imposed because the teaching of English was inadequate; so, fine money should be used to improve that teaching.
Because there are about 154,000 English-language learners – the vast majority of them American citizens – school districts will receive $136 for each. That’s $1.1 million for the Tucson Unified School District.
Republican legislators and state schools superintendent Tom Horne said they will appeal Collins decision, a move that will further delay a resolution and help for students.
Stop the appeals. Stop the “extensive lawyering.” Do what’s right.
Obey the judge’s order, which above all means appropriate enough money so all children in Arizona can learn to read, write and speak English.
Last weekend was the third anniversary of the war in Iraq, a conflict in which 57 Arizonans have been killed.
Eleven were from the Tucson area:
Benjamin Biskie, Thomas H. Byrd, Sean Kelly Cataudella, Sam Williams Huff, Kenneth E. Hunt Jr., Jeffrey David Lawrence, Joshua E. Lucero, Seferino J. Reyna, Tina Time, Robert Oliver Unruth and Robert Paul Zurheide Jr.
We may have different views of the war, but we can agree that we owe our local American heroes and their families our respect, honor and sincere thanks.