This is big step in a positive direction!
By JEFF CARLTON
July 26th 2008
DALLAS — A federal judge on Friday gave the state of Texas until the end of January to come up with a plan to improve education programs for secondary school students with limited proficiency in English, criticizing the state education agency for "failing to ensure equal education opportunities in all schools."
U.S. District Judge William Wayne Justice said the Texas Education Agency is violating the civil rights of Spanish-speaking students under the federal Equal Education Opportunity Act. Furthermore, the state's monitoring of programs for students with limited English-language skills is "fatally flawed" because of unqualified monitors, undercounting of students with limited English proficiency and arbitrary standards, Justice said.
The 1981 Bilingual and Special Education Programs Act, a measure passed by the Texas Legislature 27 years ago that staved off court action addressing discrimination in Texas schools, has not improved the schooling of secondary students with limited English proficiency, Justice ruled.
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, an organization that helped litigate the case on behalf of other advocacy groups, said primarily Spanish-speaking students in Texas have higher dropout rates, lower graduation rates and lower achievement rates than their English-speaking counterparts.
"The clear failure of secondary LEP students unquestionably demonstrates that, despite its efforts, TEA has not met its obligation to remedy the language deficiencies of Texas students," Justice wrote. "After a quarter century of sputtering implementation, defendants have failed to achieve results that demonstrate they are overcoming language barriers for secondary LEP students. Failed implementation cannot prolong the existence of a failed program in perpetuity."
The ruling gave the TEA until Jan. 31, 2009, to come up with plans to improve secondary school programs for students with limited English proficiency and the monitoring of those programs. Those plans must be implemented by the 2009-10 school year.
Texas Education Agency spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe declined to comment Friday night, saying she hadn't seen the ruling.
In a statement, MALDEF hailed the ruling as the "most comprehensive legal decision concerning the civil rights of English language learners in the last 25 years."
Justice's ruling affects "every single high school in Texas," Luis Figueroa, a MALDEF attorney, told the Associated Press. "Every school district is going to have to realize the TEA is going to be looking at their accountability of English language learners."
Justice did say in the ruling that the problems in secondary schools are not seen in the state's elementary school programs.