Arizona Costing-Out 2005


National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) Study: This study was designed to determine the cost of providing successful English Language Learner (ELL) programming in Arizona public schools. While the study includes sections typical of a traditional costing-out study, it also provides a range of additional information. By using a variety of methodologies, the study aims to provide context on ELL students’ needs and the current state of ELL funding and programming. A Stipulated Agreement reached in the Flores v. Arizona ELL case included the court’s order to the legislature to perform a comprehensive cost study. This is that study.

State Funding Context:
From Education Week ‘s Quality Counts annual report

Pre-K to 12 Students, 2002-2003: 938,000
% eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch, 2003-2004: 19%
% in limited-English-proficiency program, 2003-2004: 14.9%
Annual Unadjusted Education Spending per student, 2002-2003: $5,964

Study Title: Arizona English Language Learner Cost Study
Date Completed: February 2005
Calculated Incremental Costs: This study focuses on determining the incremental costs of providing an adequate education for ELLs, those costs for ELL programs that exceed the costs of similar services provided to English-proficient students. There were two different panels used to determine incremental costs, a professional judgment panel of state experts and a professional judgment panel of national experts:

Implementing the state panel’s model would require an incremental increase of $1,785 per ELL student in grades K-2 and $1,447 per ELL student in grades 3-12.

The national panel focused both on students’ age and level of need:

High-need ELL

 elementary school: $2,571
 middle school: $2,323
 high school: $1,997

Lower-need ELL:

elementary school: $1,236
middle school: $1,227
 high school: $1,026


Major Recommendations: The level of funding for ELLs should be increased by approximately $1,400 per student in order to meet state and federal guidelines.Funding should be targeted at specific subgroups of ELLs, for example focusing on elementary school students and students who are at-risk because of socioeconomic or other factors.The state should improve its data collection and reporting to better track the progress of ELL students. 
Special Features of the Study: The study focuses on incremental costs per ELL student necessary for success, defining success as adherence to state and federal regulations, including:

the Consent Order issued in the case of Flores vs. State of Arizona, which provided procedures for addressing inadequacies in the education system for ELLs;

Proposition 203, a voter initiative requiring the use of Structured English Immersion to teach ELLs;

the federal requirements of NCLB.

This study incorporates information secured from a wide variety of sources. In addition to professional judgment panels, this study included the perspectives of national, state, district, and school-level education professionals. The study uses a total of seven methodologies in the report; while only the professional judgment panels provide estimated incremental costs, the others provide background and context in which to evaluate the numbers suggested.


Implementation: As reported by the Associated Press, this cost study was criticized by many legislators, as they considered the suggested increases to be too high and the research process flawed. At the close of the 2005 session, the legislature passed an ELL funding bill that was vetoed by the governor, who said it was inadequate. Although the court had set the end of the 2005 session as the deadline for compliance, the issue of ELL funding remains unresolved. Plaintiffs are filing motions with the court in July/August 2005 to address the legislature’s failure to comply with the court ruling.
Methodology: Survey of Sample School Districts

The goal of the survey was to determine the existing spending levels for ELL education in the state; due to inconsistent reporting, much of the information was collected from the Arizona Department of Education and the Arizona Education Association.

The schools or districts in this section and throughout the report were chosen based on strict criteria determined by the state of Arizona. Some of the state’s stipulations included, for example, choosing both rural and urban districts, districts of various sizes and with different percentages of ELL students, a Native American district and two charter schools.

Professional Judgment Panels

Two professional judgment panels were formed, one of ELL education experts from Arizona and one of national ELL education experts.

Participants worked to determine the incremental cost of providing ELLs with an adequate education to comply with the requirements stemming from theFlores Consent Order, Proposition 203, and NCLB.

Each panel determined its own priorities in terms of ELL funding, with the state panel focusing exclusively on grade level in determining levels of funding, and the national panel focusing on grade level and level of student need.

School-Level Analysis

An analysis of Arizona Department of Education school “report card” statistics on academic achievement was conducted to determine which factors contribute to ELL student success. The results were inconclusive, and the report suggests that further research be done.

Local Educator Interviews

NCSL conducted school site interviews of education personnel including teachers and administrators in order to determine how school administrators and staff viewed the cost of educating ELLs, and their attitudes toward state and federal ELL requirements

Review of State Compliance Audits

NCSL also reviewed compliance audits of school districts concerning state, federal and local regulations to determine to what degree the districts have been implementing the regulations


Additional Factors: The report identifies potential federal funding sources that could support ELL education and some of the most promising education techniques for English language acquisition, evaluating whether or not they are supported by scientific research.While only the first two sections of the study, those concerning the district surveys and professional judgment panels, are generally part of standard costing-out studies, the additional information was requested by the legislature to clarify the status of ELL education in Arizona. Those sections also recommend where additional funding could go and how it could most benefit ELLs.
Public Input: The study incorporates school district surveys and education personnel interviews to provide information and context for the funding recommendations, though there was no input from the general public.
Prepared for: Arizona Legislature
Prepared by: The National Conference of State Legislatures’ National Center on Education Finance (NCEF)