Horne sues Education Department
The Arizona Republic
Jul. 7, 2006

Meghan E. Moravcik

State schools chief Tom Horne made good on a threat Thursday to sue the federal government over how the standardized test scores of students learning English are counted in Arizona.

Until now, Horne said, state and federal education officials agreed to count the scores of English-language learners starting after the students' third year in the state, allowing them time to become proficient enough in English to pass an academic test.

But federal education officials want to count those scores after only one year. "No Child Left Behind requires all states to include all students, including students with limited-English proficiency, in their accountability system," Chad Colby, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Education, said in a written statement. "Arizona is not doing this, and the department has repeatedly told state officials they are violating the law."

Horne said Arizona is following an oral agreement made three years ago.

"They made an agreement, and like anybody else, they should keep their agreements," Horne said.

Horne said his lawsuit challenging the federal government's position would be filed in U.S. District Court by the end of the day Thursday.

If the federal court does not rule in the state's favor, it could mean an additional 100 Arizona schools will be labeled as failures. That, in turn, could be costly for some districts if they end up enacting expensive corrective plans.