by David Safier
I'm a little late with this post, but I was out of town when the Supremes decided Arizona isn't obligated to spend more money on ELL education.
Howard Fischer's story on the decision in the Star is basically accurate. The Supreme Court sided with Horne and said the federal judge was wrong in ordering Arizona to spend more money on ELL education. But the story left out one vitally important fact. It was a 5-4 decision, with the usual cast of conservatives on one side, joined by Anthony Kennedy, and the liberals on the other.
Take away the 2000 Bush v. Gore decision, so unbelievably wrong that the Supremes said no one could ever use it as legal precedent -- I'm surprised Cheney didn't label it super-duper top secret and lock it away in his man-sized vault -- and there would have been a Florida recount. If Gore had come out on top, you can replace two of today's conservative justices, Alito and Roberts, with moderate-liberal to liberal justices, and you've got an ELL decision that goes the other way.
The ELL decision is certainly not the worst repercussion from Bush v. Gore, but it's important to realize, that 2000 decision is the stink bomb that just keeps on stinking.
NOTE: The decision throws the question back to a federal judge, so this ain't over 'til it's over.
ANOTHER NOTE: If either Alito or the lawyer on the side of more ELL funding had read BfA, one part of Alito's explanation might have been different. Because it's wrong. I have a feeling Ken Starr put it in his arguments, and Hogan, who represented the ELL side, didn't know enough to refute it.
"Research on English-language learner instruction indicates there is documented, academic support for the view that structured English immersion is significantly more effective than bilingual education," Alito wrote.
Alito is half right. There is research showing the program is valuable, and Horne loves to cite it. But it's an old study which, as I posted in May, 2008, has since been refuted by more recent work. Only 3 states use "structured English immersion," and tests of the students in those states showed no added benefits from the program. Of the three, Arizona's students had the poorest results. Oops.