Major Ruling in Case for Texas English Language Learner Students

Dismal Failure of Secondary Programs Violates Civil Rights of
English Language Learners

July 25, 2008

SAN ANTONIO, TX - In the most comprehensive legal decision concerning the civil rights of English language learners in the last 25 years, U.S. District Judge William Wayne Justice ruled today that Texas is failing to overcome language barriers for tens of thousands of Latino students in secondary programs. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and the Multicultural Education Training and Advocacy, Inc. (META) sought further relief from the Court under its continuing jurisdiction in the landmark case of U.S. v. Texas. The case comes 25 years after the State promised the Texas Court to implement effectively a bilingual education program for all English Language Learner students.

The Court said: “After a quarter century of sputtering implementation, Defendants have failed to achieve results [and]…failed implementation cannot prolong the existence of a failed program in perpetuity.”

According to MALDEF Staff Attorney David Hinojosa who, along with META, brought the case on behalf of LULAC and the American GI Forum, “this decision gives hope for the future of thousands of young Texans. Its importance can not be overstated.”

While the Court noted that there was some success for students in the state’s K-6 bilingual education program, the record at the secondary level was one of dismal failure. Attorney Roger Rice of META noted, “the Court looked not only at test scores but also at drop out rates, graduation rates, student retentions and exclusion from advanced academic achievement.” According to Rice, “as former Commissioner of Education, Neeley herself testified ‘no one in their right minds’ would think that these students are demonstrating success.”

Among the many serious flaws the Court identified in its 95 page decision, it found that the Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) monitoring and data collection system allowed the program’s failure to be masked by combining scores and dropout rates from elementary and secondary programs. The Court also found that TEA lacked trained program monitors, a situation the Court called “the blind leading the blind,” and that it was likely that students were not being identified for programs.

The Court has given TEA until January 2009 to come up with plans to fix the monitoring and secondary school program and to implement those plans by the 2009-2010 school year.

For all media inquiries, please contact Laura Rodriguez.

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund