Latino Advocacy Groups Sue over Texas ELL Programs

Latino Advocacy Groups in Texas have filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming school resources for English language learners (ELL) are grossly inadequate.

On Tuesday a 27 page- long complaint was filed by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) representing the League of United Latin American Citizens, claiming the state of Texas is failing to adhere to the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974.

The act states that students must not suffer from the state failing to take “appropriate action to overcome language barriers that impede equal participation”.

The Southwest Independent School District and North East Independent School District of San Antonio are specifically mentioned in the complaint; however similar problems are reported throughout the state.

Specific claims are made towards funding, suggesting ELL programs are underfunded and infrequently monitored. Complaints of poor teacher training and inconsistent lesson schedules have also been reported.

David Hinojosa of MALDEF stated some programs feature “pullout” initiatives, where students are intermittently removed from regular classes for extra English tuition— only to be put back into full-emersion classes immediately after.

Hinjosa added “The suit says high school English language learners across Texas continue to perform abysmally due to the grossly deficient language programs”.

He further expressed that the case deserves a federal trial, despite the failure of previous efforts.

Spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson from the Texas Education Agency said the complaint has been shared with the Texas attorney general’s office.

“Many of the allegations have already been heard in federal court and defended by the state,” “We stand ready to defend them again” – Culbertson said.

Complaints like this one are not new to Texas. Advocacy groups on behalf of English language learners have been taking legal action against the state since 1973. In 2010, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court overturned a lower court ruling that challenged Texas’ insufficient monitoring of instruction programs for English language learners. The Court however simultaneously displayed concern towards the “alarming performance” of such students.

Hinjosa suggested that the current lawsuit is more likely to make an impact due to the naming of specific school districts believed to be at fault.

Approximately 90% of English Learners in Texas are of Latino/Hispanic origin. Figures show that during the 2012-13 academic year; over 863,000 students — more than 17% of the state’s total public-school enrolled students— were English language learners.