The state no longer faces $21 million in fines and has another chance to argue against claims that it failed to adequately teach English to students who aren’t proficient in the language, a federal appeals court decided Thursday.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the contempt citation and fines imposed against the state by U.S. District Judge Raner Collins last December.
The court said Collins should have given state officials an opportunity to prove that existing programs are helping students whose primary language isn’t English.
The ruling also requires all high school students pass Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards to get a diploma.
Collins had waived that requirement for students who aren’t proficient in English.
He also fined the state after deciding the amount it was spending on students learning English was insufficient to cover the cost of teaching and classroom materials.
The Legislature has since approved a plan to spend $432 above basic state aid for each student.
The ruling is the latest development in a lawsuit filed by parents in the Nogales Unified School District.
They accused the state of failing to adequately help English learners.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne said the ruling “is exactly what I argued.’’
Horne said there is evidence that some students are doing better, particularly at four schools in the Nogales district.
Poor performance is what prompted judges to previously rule that the state was failing to provide children with equal educational opportunities.
Lawyer Tim Hogan, who represents the plaintiffs, countered there are many other schools — including in the Nogales district — where English learners are falling behind.
But Horne said the latest ruling will let him argue to Collins that the other schools’ scores are irrelevant.