Wayne E. Wright, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Bicultural-Bilingual Studies at the University of Texas at San Antonio, where he directs the Teaching English as a Second Language Program and teaches courses related to ELL teaching, literacy, assessment, policy, and research. A former bilingual, ESL, and SEI teacher in southern California, Wright received his PhD in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from Arizona State University in 2004. His dissertation on the intersection of federal and state policies for ELLs in Arizona was awarded 1st place in the Outstanding Dissertation competition of the National Association for Bilingual Education. Wright is author of the widely used textbook Foundations for Teaching English Language Learners: Research, Theory, Policy, and Practice (Caslon, 2010) and numerous published articles in leading academic journals and books on policy and practices in language minority education. He is co-editor of the forthcoming Handbook of Bilingual and Multilingual Education (Wiley-Blackwell).
March 29, 2013 was a disappointing day for those who care about the education of English language learners (ELLs). Judge Collins of the Federal District Court for the District of Arizona issued a new ruling in the case Flores v. Arizona—a 21-year old lawsuit originally filed in 1992. This new decision overturned (vacated) the Court’s January 2000 ruling that the State’s programs for ELLs were a violation of the Equal Educational Opportunities Act (EEOA) because funding of ELL programs was “arbitrary and capricious,” and inadequate to address students’ needs. While the case is specific to Arizona, the implications are nationwide.
Despite this recent defeat, great credit is due to attorney Timothy M. Hogan, Executive Director of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest. For over 2 decades Hogan and the Flores decision have been a thorn in the side of the Arizona legislature and Department of Education, forcing policymakers to acknowledge and address the needs of ELLs. The original decision led to the Flores Consent Decree in August 2000 in which the state outlined concrete steps to address issues of ELL program inadequacy and monitoring. It also led to some increases in state funding for ELLs, though never to an acceptable level.