Supreme Court to hear ELL case Monday

by David Safier
Sarah Garrecht Gassen has written an excellent piece in the Star on the Arizona ELL case that will be taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court Monday. If you want an overview and analysis of the 1992 Flores v. State of Arizona case, it's all here.

Gassen makes one important point about the argument our legislature and Dept. of Ed are making.

It's a tangle with many players that boils down to this simple schoolyard maxim: The state Speaker of the House and Senate President, in addition to Horne, are trying to tell the federal district courts, "You're not the boss of me."

It's less about what ELL students need than about whether the courts can tell us what to do.

Starr was not hired to argue the merits of Arizona's ELL education system. He was hired — and the state has paid his firm $400,000 in retainers so far — to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court that the lower courts are "commandeering" the power belonging to the state's legislative body.

Instead of arguing solely on the merits of Arizona's ELL system, the legislative leaders are, essentially, arguing that the federal district court judge should not be allowed to force the Legislature to take any specific action.

The push back against the federal court's power has attracted friend-of-the-court briefs from conservative groups and attention from high-profile right-wing activists such as Phyllis Schlafly of the Eagle Forum, who in 2006 wrote a piece about the Flores case headlined "Supremacist Judicial Mischief in Arizona."

I don't know the odds on this case going one way or another, but I do know the timing couldn't be much worse. If the Supremes decide Arizona has to spend more to educate ELL students, as I hope they do, it's going to turn into one more budget battle field. A few years ago, money would have been an issue, but not like it is now.

0 responses to “Supreme Court to hear ELL case Monday

  1. The fact is that the state of Arizona has a limited amount of money to spend on education (ELL and non-ELL).

    One of these days a federal judge is going to impose one mandate too many and some state is going to follow through on its (empty so-far) threat to secede.

  2. The sad but true part of this case is that if the lege leadership loses, they’ll just use ELL funding as an excuse to further cut education elsewhere.

    If they had just followed the court’s orders after the initial case, a robust ELL infrastructure would be in place, mature, and integrated with the rest of AZ schools’ teaching structure. Mature and integrated enough to possibly allow for some budget adjustments to help balance the state’s budget while minimizing the damage to ELL.

    Instead, they’re faced with a situation where if they lose, it will cost the state tens, perhaps hundreds, of millions of dollars in start-up costs to put a new and adequate ELL system in place.

    They’ve spent years pandering to the nativist wing of their own party, but we (meaning taxpayers and students) are the ones paying the price for it.

  3. If you allowed funding for only children born in the US (I’m not advocating that here), would people still be upset at requiring adequate funding for learning a language? Forget the reasons why they come with deficencies. Let’s even make it about special ed funding that way there isn’t the “illegal” lightning rod. Would the same people have the same argument if we didn’t provide additional funding for this subset?

  4. This battle is also about posturing for political purposes. There is a false belief here that all children who speak Spanish are not citizens. The ELL battle in AZ is more about illegal immigration than it is about education.