Supreme Court Remands Educational Equity Case Under New Standard of Review
Decision Rejects Arizona ‘s Argument That School District’s Compliance With The No Child Left Behind Act Sufficiently Protects English Language Learner Civil Rights
The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, remanded Horne v. Flores to lower federal courts, which must review additional factors to consider lifting a 2000 mandate for sufficient state funding to English Language Learners (ELLs) programs in Nogales, Arizona. However, all 9 justices decisively rejected the Arizona Superintendent’s claim that a state complying with the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) automatically protects ELLs’ civil rights under the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 (EEOA).
“The Supreme Court has rightfully found that EEOA provides ELLs with critical and independent civil rights,” said Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) Staff Attorney Khin Mai Aung. “We hope lower courts will apply the new factors the high court set forth to preserve ELLs’ rights to continued funding and support.”
AALDEF, along with 23 diverse youth groups and education advocates across the country, submitted an amicus brief demonstrating that NCLB is inadequate to protect ELLs’ educational rights. The high court’s ruling supports AALDEF’s arguments, which document a rampant lack of ELL assessment and services, inadequate interpretation and translation, insufficient teacher training and certification, and general curricular inequality across the country. AALDEF contended that these problems were particularly acute for discrete ELL populations with particular needs (including speakers of smaller language groups). In accordance with AALDEF’s brief, the high court affirmed EEOA’s continuing relevance.
However, the Supreme Court’s new standard of review allows state officials greater flexibility in undoing longstanding judgments by showing a change in circumstances. Of particular concern is the majority’s express indication that Nogales ‘s compliance with NCLB could constitute such a change in circumstances. Nevertheless, in light of NCLB’s documented shortcomings and the vital importance of ELL programs in helping all students learn English, we are hopeful lower courts will preserve the 2000 judgment.
The Supreme Court’s decision can be read at: https://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/08pdf/08-289.pdf
AALDEF’s full amicus brief can be downloaded at: /uploads/pdf/AALDEFAmicusHorne.v.Flores_FINAL.pdf
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Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF)