Federal

Arizona Officials Notch Win in Clash Over ELL Services

By Mary Ann Zehr — July 14, 2009 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The U.S. Supreme Court handed Arizona officials a victory in a challenge to lower federal court decisions that the state must provide adequate funding for its English-language learners.

In a 5-4 decision on June 25, the court decided in Horne v. Flores that the lower courts didn’t fairly consider “changed circumstances” that had occurred since parents in the Nogales, Ariz., school district had filed the original lawsuit in U.S. District Court.

The nation’s highest court said the case must be sent back to the lower courts for a proper examination of at least four factual or legal changes that have occurred since the 1992 filing of the original lawsuit. Among those changed circumstances: enactment of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

See Also

For more information on the 2008-09 term, read U.S. Supreme Court: Progress and Problems.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote the majority opinion. In particular, Justice Alito said, the lower courts must revisit whether the federal district court made a mistake in seeking a statewide solution to the complaint that programs for ELLs in the Nogales school system were underfunded and inadequate.

“The record contains no factual findings or evidence that any school district other than Nogales failed (much less continues to fail) to provide equal educational opportunities to ELL students, he wrote, “Nor have respondents explained how the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 could justify a statewide injunction when the only violation claimed or proven was limited to a single district.”

He said that the district court should vacate the decision as far as it extends beyond the Nogales schools unless it finds that Arizona is violating the EEOA.

Justice Alito was joined in the majority opinion by Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Anthony M. Kennedy, and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote the dissenting opinion. “The lower courts did ‘fairly consider’ every change in circumstances that the parties called to their attention.” In dissent, Justice Breyer was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David H. Souter, and John Paul Stevens.

Timothy M. Hogan, the executive director of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, a lawyer for the Nogales parents, said he was disappointed in the ruling. At the same time, he said, “this ruling is going to give us an opportunity to fully explore whether the state’s new program [for ELLs] is working or not.”

New Scrutiny

Mr. Hogan said he believes the current program isn’t working in three of the four areas that the Supreme Court said must be re-examined: a new methodology for teaching ELLs, enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act, an increase in the overall funding for ELLs, and changes in programs in Nogales.

The parents who brought the lawsuit had contended in federal court that by not providing adequate services for English-language learners, the Nogales school district, where 1,700 of 6,000 students are ELLs, violated the EEOA. The law requires that districts take “appropriate action” to help students overcome language barriers. In January 2000, U.S. District Judge Alfredo Marquez ruled that Arizona’s funding for English-learners was “arbitrary and capricious.” He told the state to come up with a plan to provide adequate funds for such students.

The state legislature approved a bill in March 2006 to address the court order, but U.S. District Judge Raner C. Collins ruled that the legislation fell short of meeting the requirements of the court. In February 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, in San Francisco, upheld Judge Collins’ ruling, which was challenged by some Arizona officials.

A version of this article appeared in the July 15, 2009 edition of Education Week as Arizona Officials Notch Win in Clash Over ELL Services


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal Feds to Probe Whether Texas Ban on School Mask Mandates Violates Disability Rights Laws
The Education Department has already opened investigations in six other states that ban universal school mask requirements.
2 min read
A staff member holds the door open for kids on the first day of school at Goodwin Frazier Elementary School in New Braunfels, Texas on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020.
A staff member holds the door open at Goodwin Frazier Elementary School in New Braunfels, Texas in 2020. This year, Texas has prohibited school districts from requiring all students to wear masks.
Mikala Compton/Herald-Zeitung via AP
Federal New Federal Team to Work on Puerto Rico School Improvement, Oversight
The Puerto Rico Education Sustainability Team will focus on creating better learning environments and improving financial management.
3 min read
Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visits the Emilio Delgado School in Corozal on June 30, 2021 during a visit to Puerto Rico.
Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visits the Emilio Delgado School in Corozal on June 30, 2021 during a visit to Puerto Rico.
Teresa Canino Rivera/GDA via AP
Federal Pandemic Tests Limits of Cardona's Collaborative Approach as Education Secretary
He's sought the image of a veteran educator among former peers, but COVID has forced him to take a tough stance toward some state leaders.
10 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter speak to Mia Arias, 10, during their visit to P.S. 5 Port Morris, a Bronx elementary school, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021 in New York.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter speak to Mia Arias, 10, during a visit to P.S. 5 Port Morris, a Bronx elementary school, last month.
Brittainy Newman/AP
Federal White House Launches Hispanic Education Initiative Led by Miguel Cardona
President Joe Biden said his administration intends to address the "systemic causes" of educational disparities faced by Hispanic students.
2 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona writes down and draws positive affirmations on poster board with students during his visit to P.S. 5 Port Morris, a Bronx elementary school, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021 in New York.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visits students in New York City at P.S. 5 Port Morris, a Bronx elementary school in the Bronx last month.
Brittainy Newman/AP