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Settlement reached in history curriculum suit

A lawsuit against the Arizona Department of Education has been temporarily averted by a settlement between the department’s highest official and the attorney for five Arizona charter schools that resisted state efforts to implement grade-by-grade standards for history instruction.

The Oct. 15 agreement between Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne and Clint Bolick, an attorney with the Goldwater Institute, allows the schools to work with Horne to create and establish their own history curriculums.

But the deal, which could affect students at grade and high school levels, allows each party to resume the lawsuit if their goals and expectations are not met. Both parties as part of the agreement will not provide further comment.

Under the truce, the schools will be permitted one or two alternative sets of social studies standards that address what students at a particular grade level are expected to know. It’s up to the schools to provide curricular information to Horne, whom in turn, is entrusted with lobbying a task force and the State Board of Education for approval for necessary standard adaptations.

In June, Bolick filed a lawsuit against Horne and the Department of Education, whom he accused of infringing upon the charter schools’ independence by forcing the schools to implement individual grade level standards.

The five schools involved in the lawsuit are BASIS-Scottsdale, BASIS-Tucson, the Veritas Prepatory Academy, Mesa Prepatory Academy and the Chandler Preparatory Academy.

The schools in question, argued Bolick, taught what state regulations- just in different sequential order. The charter schools’ curriculums only differed by instructing students on ancient and medieval studies before American history courses are given, he said in filings and at an August court hearing.

Attorneys for Horne countered that a charter school victory would have prevented the state from implementing any educational standards on the schools and left the department vulnerable to lawsuits from students that could fail standardized tests through no fault of their own.

In August, Bolick unsuccessfully persuaded Maricopa Superior Court Judge Robert Miles to immediately stop the imposition of the grade-by-grade standards.

Miles said in an Aug. 7 ruling the schools made no effort in two years to influence the yet-to-be imposed policy by the department, which also lacked the authority to take action against the charter schools.

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