Supreme Court Ruling Horne vs.
ELL Funding Case: Summary and Related Assessments of the Ruling
In October of 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling involving
’s funding for programs serving English language learners (ELLs). The class action case centered on complaints by students and parents that the state’s approach to funding programs for ELL students was insufficient as reflected in funding provided to the
. The case claimed that this underfunding violated the Equal Educational Opportunities Act by the state’s failure to take appropriate action to overcome language barriers that impeded equal participation by its students in its instructional programs.
The case had been long and hard fought since it was filed in 1992. It resulted in the
’s legislature’s adoption of minor reforms to state bilingual education funding plans. But reviews of the reforms by plaintiffs and other
governmental agencies led to rejection of the funding adjustments as not sufficient to meet the unique language related needs of
’s ELL students.
The appeals court for the Ninth Circuit agreed with the district court’s ruling that the state of
’s funding plan for ELL education did not provide sufficient funding. The case then went forward to the U.S. Supreme Court where a divided 5 to 4 ruling confirmed the lower court’s findings in part but also overrode some other facets of the district and appeals court decisions. An important victory for the
plaintiffs was the Supreme Court ruling that the Equal Educational Opportunities Act is still viable law and has not been replaced by provisions outlined in the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) adopted in 2001.
The Supreme Court also reversed other parts of the earlier court rulings and remanded the case back to the district court for further hearings. The Supreme Court cited four points to justify its reversal of parts of the earlier lower court rulings. The four-judge dissenting opinion written by Supreme Court Justice Breyer disagreed with the five-judge majority on the major points in the case and reflected the ongoing internal dissension that has characterized the high court over the last decade.
The case may be retried by the federal district court if the plaintiffs choose to proceed or some settlement on the case is not reached. No schedule has been set to date for follow-up deliberations.
Statement by Dr. María "Cuca" Robledo Montecel, IDRA President and CEO, “Supreme Court Ruling in Horne vs. Flores is a Missed Opportunity – Fair Funding is Critical to Successful Education of English Language Learners”
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund has issued a “Fact Sheet on Supreme Court’s Decision in Horne v.
” listing key points of the Supreme Court decision.
Also, the Multicultural Education and Training Project (META) has created a critique of the Flores decision with question and answers in “An Analysis of the Supreme Court’s Decision in Horne vs. Flores, the
ELL Funding Case."
The majority and dissenting opinions are online as well.
Education of English Language Learners in U.S. and Texas Schools – Where We Are, What We Have Learned and Where We Need to Go from Here – A 2009 Update, by Dr. Albert Cortez and Dr.
, is available free online or for purchase from IDRA ($7).
“Dropping Out of School in Arizona – IDRA conducts new study,” by Dr. Albert Cortez, Josie Danini Cortez, M.A., and Dr. María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel (September 2002).