Appeal Planned in Major Ruling on Texas Bilingual Program

A federal judge rules Texas is not living up to its obligation to properly educate students who struggle with the English language. The 95 page ruling disappoints the Texas Education Agency, but delights a civil rights organization which sued. Pat Hernandez has the story.
U.S. District Judge William Wayne Justice wrote "Texas is not complying with the federal Equal Educational Opportunity Act...in that public schools are failing their obligation to overcome language barriers." Suzanne Marchman, a spokeswoman with The Texas Education Agency says the decision reverses the judge's ruling made last year.

"We're disappointed that Judge Justice reversed the original order he issued in this case. We're continuing to study this latest ruling but, it is likely that we'll ask the Attorney General to appeal it."

The case was brought by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, on behalf of the League of United Latin American Citizens and the American G.I. Forum. MALDEF attorney David Hinojosa says the ruling will change the landscape for monitoring English language learners in Texas.

"Right now, they just basically measure districts with successful schools masking the failures of failing schools. So, the monitoring will now have to be down to the school level, and it will also have to measure the performance of English language learners versus non- English language learners, rather than against some arbitrary state standard that they had previously used, which had nothing to do with equalizing educational opportunities."

More than 145-thousand Texas students in grades 7-12 are considered deficient in English, and their TAKS test performance falls far behind other students.

"We are getting kids in at all ages that don't speak a word of English."

Gayle Fallon is with the Houston Federation of Teachers. She thinks some type of bilingual program on the secondary level is needed.

"That being said with your secondary students, the other issue has been purely economic. The federal government funded bi-lingual ed up to 6th grade and that's where we stopped. School districts follow the money. There is some money for ESL, but not at the same level."

MALDEF attorney Hinojosa says the state needs to live up to its responsibilities.

"We're not asking for anything more for these students, only that they have access to equal educational opportunities that they can take advantage of as other students that can. Or, they can accept those facts the way they are in the findings of the court, and try to appeal it and get out from under this on some type of technicality."

The Court has given TEA until January to come up with plans to fix the monitoring and secondary school program — and to implement those plans by the next school year.

Pat Hernandez, KUHF...Houston Public Radio News.
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Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...