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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Arizona is back in federal court over English learners.

by Pat Kossan | The Arizona Republic
Sept. 6, 2009

In June, a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court nearly ended a 17-year legal battle over how Arizona helps students who haven't yet learned to speak, read or write English. But the justices did not dismiss the case, leaving an opportunity for attorneys to continue to argue over the case known as Flores vs. Arizona. The arguments resume this month.

In a 5-4 decision, the justices handed back to the state Legislature the power to determine how much is spent on English instruction and told the lower courts to consider how Arizona has changed English-learner programs. The justices also raised doubts about whether the case, originally filed in 1992 against the Nogales Unified School District
, should still apply to the entire state.

By Sept. 30, Tim Hogan of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest will ask U.S. District Court Judge Raner Collins to expand the case statewide. Hogan said he will argue that state-mandated English-learner programs violate the Equal Educational Opportunity Act, not programs mandated in one district.

Most recently, state officials required schools to place English learners into a daily four-hour course and to use a detailed state-prescribed curriculum for learning English conversation, grammar
, reading and writing.

"After the Supreme Court decision, the focus is going to shift from funding to the adequacy of the programs," said Hogan, who represents the plaintiffs, the Flores family. "Chief among those issues is the four-hour model."

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