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State challenges court fines in ‘Flores’ case, exemption from AIMS for English learners

In a brief filed May 10, the state’s schools chief asked a federal appeals court to overturn a pair of rulings by a lower court in the Flores v. State of Arizona case, saying the lower court “abused its discretion” by exempting English language learner students from passing the AIMS test and ordering $21 million in fines be spent on English programs.
“Its orders constitute an intrusion on state sovereignty and a violation of the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution,” wrote Eric Bistrow, attorney for State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne.
The filing was Mr. Horne’s opening brief in an appeal of two rulings made by U.S. District Court Judge Raner C. Collins. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments on the case in July.
Mr. Horne’s filing argues that Judge Collins didn’t have the authority to suspend passing the AIMS test as a graduation requirement for ELL students because another federal judge ruled against a similar request in 2000. That ruling was never appealed.
The brief also asserts that Judge Collins’ December ruling was made despite no evidence supporting the need to exempt the students and that his ruling mandates preferential treatment of one group based on national origin.
The court document also argues an order fining the state for contempt because the lower court did not “comport with due process requirements” by refusing a hearing so the state could defend its ELL funding levels in light of federal funding increases since the original ruling in 2000. Further, Mr. Bistrow continues, the court had no right to distribute the fine money to schools without a hearing.

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