Appeals Court To Hear Two Arizona Education Cases Monday
January 12, 2015

Two court cases involving education in Arizona education go before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Monday. One case is the state’s 2010 ban on ethnic studies. The court will also hear arguments on a decades-old civil rights lawsuit, addressing how Arizona teaches English Language Learners.

Flores v. Arizona is a class action lawsuit brought by parents of English Language Learners in Nogales, Ariz., in 1992. They argue the state’s four hour blocks to teach students English, put them behind their peers in mainstream classrooms, violating the Equal Educational Opportunities Act.

In 2013 a federal district judge in Tucson ruled in favor of the state. Tim Hogan is the Executive Director of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest. He is the attorney for the parents and filed an appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. 

“I’m going to focus on the loss of academic content for these kids and how that’s not equal participation that’s required by the law and how the system in Arizona unduly segregates kids for a long period of time, to no apparent purpose,” Hogan said.

Hogan said testimony and exhibits show students who are in mainstream classrooms progress at a higher rate than those placed in English language instruction. He also said the state doesn’t require schools to make up for the academic content these students miss.

In December the Arizona State Board of Education approved optional adjustments to the four hour block which will go into effect for the 2015-2016 school year. Christine Thompson is the board’s Executive Director. 

“It’s about providing more flexibility so you can provide more individualized education and tailor a system a little bit better to the specific needs to students in your schools,” Thompson said.

She said schools can choose to place students whose English is at an intermediate level or higher in shorter blocks of two or three hours. The updates also allow for subjects such as writing and grammar to be more naturally integrated for ELL students.

Hogan said because this is optional for schools, many children will remain in the four-hour model.