An attorney seeking more funds to help students learn English charges that a program designed to teach them is illegal.
In legal papers filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court, Tim Hogan targets the four-hour-a-day English immersion courses now mandated for students who are not proficient. Hogan said that amounts to illegal segregation of these students from their classmates.
"For elementary school students, the harmful and pernicious effects of such segregation can be permanent and irreversible," Hogan wrote in his legal filing. And he said high schoolers who are kept in those programs for more than a year are in danger of not having enough time for other courses to allow them to graduate.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne, however, said the law does allow for such segregated educational programs for a "limited time."
He noted that Hogan, while questioning the legality of any segregation, said he was willing to give the immersion program a chance to work for up to a year. Horne said his goal is to have students be proficient within that time, though he acknowledged that for some it does take longer.
Horne also said the evidence shows the immersion program works, saying that the number of students being reclassified as proficient is 30 percent higher than before it was implemented.
"The four-hour model has made us one of the leaders in the area of teaching English," he said.
Hogan, however, was skeptical of those results, which he said reflect only a single academic year. And he said there is no data yet on how many of those students will remain "proficient."
The charges are part of Hogan's arguments that evidence remains that Arizona still has not complied with a 2000 ruling by a federal judge that the state must do more to ensure that all students have an opportunity to learn. Hogan wants to be able to present that evidence to U.S. District Court Judge Raner Collins.
The new move comes more than three months after the U.S. Supreme Court tossed out rulings by Collins and a federal appellate court ordering Arizona to do more - and possibly spend a lot more - on its programs to teach English to students who come to school speaking another language.
Hogan, in Wednesday's court filing, pointed out that the high court did not rule that Arizona is, in fact, complying with the federal Equal Education Opportunity Act. That law requires states to ensure that all students have an opportunity to learn, which specifically requires states to take "appropriate action" to help students become proficient in English.
Instead, the justices simply ruled that the lower courts had not properly considered the evidence of what has been done in the Nogales Unified School District. Nogales is the district first named as a defendant in the lawsuit, filed in 1992.
That means a new hearing on whether Nogales is now complying with the law, and whether the 2000 judgment and subsequent orders to spend more money should be upheld.