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Court Turns Back Texas Schools Lawsuit

March 23, 2010

News - BCourt Turns Back Texas Schools Lawsuit 10.03.23

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The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund - MALDEF - and others, sued the state 4 years ago because English language learners - mostly Spanish speaking students Texas - were dropping out at 2 to 3 times the rate of others. So MALDEF's senior litigator, David Hinojosa, says they sued the state.

David Hinojosa: They had this 'see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil' approach to whether or not students were actually learning English in classrooms at the secondary level. We thought the state should do something about it.

The late judge William Wayne Justice ordered the state to revamp its bilingual program. But Monday, the U.S. 5th Circuit of Appeals in New Orleans, threw the case back to the lower courts. Debbie Graves Ratcliffe, with The Texas Education Agency, says the TEA is pleased.

Debbie Graves Ratcliffe, TEA: That's not a statewide problem. There might be isolated issues where a program hasn't been well implemented, but overall we feel the bilingual program has been extremely successful particularly at the elementary grades.

Ratcliffe acknowledges problems persist, especially for middle and high school students. She says some Spanish speakers arrive poorly educated even in their own language. And it's harder to learn a 2nd language at an older age. She says there's even more.

Ratcliffe: They also need to learn English well enough to understand science, a language which is a 3rd language, often by that age they have a job and other issues to deal with and it's just hard.

Hinojosa: Those are excuses, not reasons. The Evidence we presented to the lower court was that the vast of majority of these students, well over 60 percent of the students at the secondary level, have been in the U.S. schools 4 or 5 years.

Hinojosa says MALDEF believes in this case, and will saw again. But this time, he says the organization will sue an individual school district or two. And that could include Dallas. He expects the suit in a few months. Bill Zeeble KERA news.

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