Since 1970s, Texas and its School Districts Continue to Deprive Latino English Language Learner Students (ELLs) Equal Educational Opportunities

SAN ANTONIO, TX - Today, MALDEF and the Multicultural Education, Training and Advocacy, Inc. (META), filed federal court papers on behalf of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), seeking to require that the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and two individual school districts, the Southwest and North East Independent School Districts in San Antonio, effectively monitor, implement, enforce and supervise programs for ELLs.

"Four years ago, the Fifth Circuit described the performance of ELL students as 'alarming' and when one out of every two long-term ELL students is not advancing in English today, this shows that things have not changed," stated MALDEF lead counsel and Southwest Regional Counsel David Hinojosa. "This lawsuit should be the wake-up call that is needed to spur positive, affirmative action by the school districts and the State of Texas once and for all."

According to the complaint, ELL students in the named school districts, and across Texas, continue to perform abysmally-especially in secondary schools-due to the grossly deficient language programs at the local level and the TEA's failure to monitor and intervene effectively into those failing programs. Consequently, tens of thousands of ELL students across Texas are not acquiring English proficiency as required under the federal Equal Educational Opportunities Act (EEOA).

The complaint alleges that the Southwest and North East ISD's language programs for secondary students (middle and high school students), particularly stand-alone English as a Second Language ("ESL") pullout programs, are failing miserably. The programs are under-resourced and poorly implemented. Moreover, the State's "Supplemental" Certification of ESL teachers is insufficient because the certification program does not ensure that the teachers are qualified and well-prepared to serve secondary ELLs. The State's deficient monitoring, which is structured to accomplish the least amount of intervention, continues to mask these failing language programs, leading to ELLs not learning English, performing poorly in the classroom, and not getting the tools they need to succeed. TEA's latest figures show the ELL dropout rate at about four times that of the statewide average.

"LULAC, MALDEF and META have been at this for a long time and never in that long time have the stakes been so high for so many students," said co- lead counsel, Roger Rice, Executive Director of the Multicultural Education, Training and Advocacy, Inc. (META). "It is no exaggeration to say that for these students, their families and the State of Texas, the time is now to end the cycle of educational failure for our ELL student population. Instead of trying to obscure that failure with clever statistical gimmicks, TEA should roll up its sleeves to make sure that these youngsters are educated."

In 1970, Judge William Wayne Justice of the United States District Court of the Eastern District of Texas ordered the State of Texas and nine school districts to remedy past discrimination that continued to harm the educational achievement of minority students in the State. In 1973, MALDEF intervened on behalf of LULAC and the American GI Forum to hold the State responsible for providing equal educational opportunities to Latinos and ELLs.

In 1981, the District Court found that the State had failed to help ELLs overcome language barriers under the EEOA, spurring Texas to pass a law that expanded bilingual education to grades K-6 and improved state monitoring of failing ELL programs.

When Texas watered down its monitoring, in 2006, MALDEF and META again filed court papers arguing that TEA's secondary ESL program had failed and that its monitoring program had masked that failure. In 2008, Judge Justice agreed, but in 2010, the Fifth Circuit reversed, holding that TEA's monitoring program had only been in effect for two years at the time of trial and must be given time. However, in lieu of dismissing the case outright, the Fifth Circuit remanded the case in light of the "alarming" performance of ELL students and suggested that LULAC add school districts to the lawsuit to better assess fault for the dismal performs of ELLs. Texas nevertheless moved to dismiss in 2013, but U.S. District Court Judge Michael Schneider denied the request in February 2014.

A copy of the new complaint can be found HERE.

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