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Arizona Asks the U.S. Supreme Court to Step In

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The education scene for English-language learners in Arizona looks a whole lot different than it did in 1992, when a lawsuit about such students, Flores v. Arizona, was filed in a U.S. District Court in that state. For instance, the state now complies with accountability requirements for the education of ELLs under the federal No Child Left Behind Act that didn't even exist back then. And it has increased its spending on programs for such students. But the district court has been rigid in sticking by an eight-year-old ruling that the state doesn't provide adequate funds for ELLs. What's more, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld that decision. Some state lawmakers feel both courts are wrong.

That's the essence of the argument contained in a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court to review the appeals court's judgment in the Flores case. The petition is dated Sept. 1 and was filed by Kenneth W. Starr, the former Independent Counsel on the Whitewater scandal, and by other lawyers. (Mr. Starr is listed on the 39-page document as a counsel of record for Kirkland & Ellis, which has an office in Los Angeles.)

The petitioners are the Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives and the President of the Arizona Senate. The document says:

[T]his court's intervention is needed to put an end to the federal judiciary's eight-year reign over Arizona's schools. Arizona needs this court's help to return control over the funding of Arizona's school programs to where it rightly belongs--out of the hands of a single federal district court judge and back into the hands of Arizona's democratically accountable officials.

Those are fighting words.

But I know from reporting on the Flores case for more than eight years that Timothy Hogan, the lawyer for the plaintiffs in the case, is also a fighter and will persist in arguing that ELLs aren't yet getting an adequate education in Arizona.

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This sounds very scary considering the supreme court right now. Arizona has many minority citizens but it is controlled by many retirees who moved there specifically to avoid expenses and live on limited incomes. The elderly white voters don't work well together with Hispanic families needing proper educational services.

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