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Ariz. English-Learner Program Upheld in Federal Court

Arizona schools may continue to keep English-learners in language-instruction classes for up to four hours a day, a federal judge has ruled in a long-running case over the civil rights of ELLs in the state.

U.S. District Judge Raner Collins ruled that the state's education program for students who are still learning English does not violate their civil rights, despite arguments from plaintiffs in the case that the program keeps ELLs from receiving much, if any, meaningful instruction in the core academic content areas.

The decision is part of the broader Horne v. Flores case that dealt with adequate funding and equitable education for English-learners and went to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2009. In a 5-4 decision, the justices mostly sided with the state of Arizona by sending the case back to the lower courts to examine changes that Arizona education officials had made to ELL programs in the years since the lawsuit was first filed.

Parents in the Nogales, Ariz., school district filed the original lawsuit in 1992. Timothy Hogan, the longtime attorney for the Flores plaintiffs, has not said whether he will appeal the new ruling, according to the Arizona Republic.

Separately, federal civil rights officials have been scrutinizing Arizona's ELL programs for a number of years, and last summer, the office for civil rights in the U.S. Department of Education reached a settlement with state schools chief John Huppenthal. That agreement requires the state to offer intensive language supports to tens of thousands of students who were found to be reclassified as proficient too soon.

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