The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund
filed a 27-page complaint on behalf of the League of United
Latin American Citizens in the Eastern District of Texas. It
argues that the state is violating the Equal Educational
Opportunities Act of 1974, which says no state can deny
students educational opportunities by failing to ``take
appropriate action to overcome language barriers that impede
equal participation'' in instructional programs.
The suit singles out Southwest Independent School District and
North East Independent School District, both in San Antonio,
but alleges similar problems statewide.
``It could have been hundreds'' of school districts, said David
Hinojosa, MALDEF's southwest regional counsel. ``It would be an
exception not to be sued.''
The suit alleges that English language learner programs are
underfunded and poorly monitored, and that instructors are often
not properly trained. Hinojosa said some programs feature
``pullout'' initiatives where students are removed from regular
classes for a few hours for extra English instruction—only to be
thrown back into full-emersion courses afterward.
The suit says high school English language learners ``across
Texas continue to perform abysmally due to the grossly deficient
language programs.'' It seeks a trial in federal court, though
it's not yet clear when and where it would take place, Hinojosa
Named as chief defendant is Texas Education Commissioner Michael
Williams. Spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson said Texas Education
Agency attorneys had shared the complaint with the Texas
attorney general's office.
``Many of the allegations have already been heard in federal
court and defended by the state,'' Culbertson said. ``We stand
ready to defend them again.''
Indeed, advocacy groups have been suing Texas on behalf of
English language learners since 1973. Four years ago, the U.S.
5th Circuit Court reversed a lower court ruling challenging as
deficient Texas' monitoring of instruction programs for English
language learners—but also expressed concern about the
``alarming performance'' of such students.
Hinojosa said Tuesday's suit has a better chance of succeeding
because it names individual districts, rather than simply state
educational officials who aren't directly responsible for
English language learner instruction, and because state
monitoring controls that were still new in previous years have
now been around long enough to demonstrate their
During the 2012-13 school year, the most recent data available,
more than 863,000 students—more than 17 percent of the state's
total public-school enrollment—were English language learners.
About 90 percent of Texas' English language learners are Latino.
Though most are grade school-age or younger, the suit says many
high school students continue to need English language training
and that ``these students' chances of succeeding in the
mainstream programs and exiting the ELL programs diminish as
they progress in grade level.''