Opinion: State stonewalls on English learners’ progress

Original article appeared in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

By San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board

Yet another civil rights lawsuit has been filed against the state of California over its treatment of minority students. Public Counsel and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area are suing the state Department of Education over its refusal to disclose how many long-term English-language learners are in public schools.

The lawsuit contends that this failure to honor state openness laws prevents an evaluation of whether the state’s English Language Development program has been effective and whether public schools are using what have been identified as the best practices for dealing with various categories of English learners.

The plaintiffs assert that some students have been in English-learner programs for more than six years without becoming proficient, suggesting the state is violating a 1974 federal law requiring states to take “affirmative steps” to help English learners “to participate in public schools on an equal basis with their peers.”

Governments are often sluggish, so it’s possible this is just a bureaucratic failure. But on many education issues, Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration has acted to resist accountability and to preserve the status quo – even if it’s not working. The evidence presented in the lawsuit is one more reason to be cynical about a governor who claims that educating struggling English-learner students is his top priority.