Texas Will Delay Fixing ELL Programs After All

By Mary Ann Zehr — February 02, 2009 1 min read
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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, in Tyler, Texas, has decided that Texas may wait to overhaul the state’s programs for secondary English-language learners until the appeals court decides if a lower court was correct in ruling that the state’s programs don’t comply with federal law. (Click here for the court document granting the stay.)

William Wayne Justice, a senior U.S. district judge for the eastern district of Texas, Tyler division, ruled in July in U.S. v. Texas that Texas violates the federal Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 by not providing adequate programs for secondary English-language learners in the state. He gave Texas until Jan. 31 to submit a plan for how to improve programs for ELLs in grades 7-12 and the state’s monitoring system for ELLs in all grades.

The state filed an appeal to that decision and then asked the U.S. district court for a delay in having to revamp programs until after its appeal was heard, arguing that such a major overhaul required new legislation and couldn’t be carried out by the deadline set by the court. Judge Justice denied the state’s request, contending it is urgent for the programs to be improved.

But the appeals court disagreed, and found credence in the state’s argument that it needed more time to design a new program for all the secondary ELLs in the state and a new monitoring system. The appeals court document says that Texas must consider “a wide variety of concerns, including funding, personnel changes, and their legislative authority to carry out such a plan and program.”

Interestingly, the state had drawn up a plan to submit by the deadline, which was this past Saturday, I was told last week by Debbie Ratcliffe, a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency. But because the appeals court judge granted a stay, which was issued on Jan. 28, the agency never submitted its plan, she told me today in an e-mail.

Texas Commissioner of Education Robert Scott praised the appeals court’s decision to grant a stay. “We look forward to working with the legislature to ensure that English-language learners receive appropriate services,” he said in a statement, and he noted that in the last two years, the Texas Education Agency has devoted “considerable resources” to ELL programs.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.