Texas Education Agency to Appeal Bilingual Ruling

Dallas 

The state education agency said it plans to ask Attorney General Greg Abbott to appeal a federal judge’s ruling requiring the state of Texas to improve bilingual education programs for secondary school students, according to media reports.

“We are disappointed that the judge reversed his original order of a year ago. We are continuing to study this latest ruling, but we do anticipate asking the attorney general to appeal,” Debbie Ratcliffe of the Texas Education Agency said Tuesday in The Dallas Morning News.

She said the state “absolutely stands” by its programs for limited-English students.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge William Wayne Justice cited unqualified monitors, undercounting of students with limited English proficiency and arbitrary standards as part of the failure of the 1981 Bilingual and Special Education Programs Act to provide adequate programs for limited-English students.

He said TEA was violating the civil rights of Spanish-speaking secondary students under the federal Equal Education Opportunity Act. His 95-page ruling gave the state until January 31 to produce a new plan.

The ruling was surprising because it reverses Justice’s 2007 order which gave the state’s bilingual education programs a passing grade, the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News said in online reports Tuesday.

Some Texas lawmakers said on Monday they were already addressing some of the challenges students with  limited English face, even before the judge’s ruling.

Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, said her panel is exploring legislation that would upgrade instruction and beef up dropout prevention programs for students struggling with English.

“While our elementary school students are doing very well, we recognize there are problems in our high schools that we want to address,” she said.

The chairman of the House Public Education Committee, Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, said one alternative is dual-language immersion programs. He said such programs would be substituted for traditional bilingual and English-as-a-second-language ESL classes.

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