The Associated Press
Feb. 5, 2009
McALLEN, Texas — A federal appeals court has delayed an overhaul of bilingual and English-as-a-second-language programs in Texas schools.
Last year, U.S. District Judge William Wayne Justice had ruled that Texas schools had failed middle and high school students with limited English. He ordered Texas to submit proposals for a new way of tracking and educating those students by Jan. 31.
But the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, responding to a requested delay from the state, ruled last week that "a wide variety of concerns including funding, personnel changes and legislative authority" must be addressed first.
"This gives the Legislature a chance to take a look at any laws they might want to pass to address the issue before we're forced to make decisions," Texas Education Agency spokeswoman Suzanne Marchman told The McAllen Monitor.
Originally, the new system of educating the estimated 140,000 students was supposed to be implemented for the 2009-2010 school year.
But the appellate panel said, "If (the state's) failure is as severe as the district court has described, (it) will need to create a new plan for monitoring over 1,000 school districts in Texas and a new language program for secondary students in those districts."
The delay disappointed David Hinojosa, an attorney whose lawsuit against the state spurred the original court order.
"Texas has a monitoring issue that allows thousands and thousands of failing students to fall through the cracks," Hinojosa said. "Unless things change, they'll continue to be lost in a system that fails them."
Texas students receive bilingual education through sixth grade then switch to ESL classes, but the state lacks clear standards to evaluating the ESL programs.
State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo has filed a bill that would require the state to produce data on ESL students at a campus level, reporting high school and middle school dropout rates separately. It would also require school districts with consistently underperforming limited-English students to submit a detailed improvement plan.