Judge rejects bid to lift AIMs exemption
Associated Press
Mar. 16, 2006

A federal judge on Thursday brusquely refused to retreat on his order prohibiting Arizona from applying its new high school graduation test to students learning the English language.

U.S. District Judge Raner C. Collins denied a request by state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne to temporarily put the judge's order on hold while Horne appeals to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

AIMS is a math, reading and science test. Beginning this spring, high school students must pass the test to get a diploma. Horne's lawyer had argued that Collins should stay his AIMS order because vital and broad public interests are at stake, irreparable harm is certain and imminent, and there are debatable legal issues.

Collins rejected Horne's arguments.

"The state has failed to comply with federal law for nearly six years," the judge said in an order that repeatedly referred to the years that have passed since a 2000 ruling by Collins' predecessor.

Any hardship caused the state "is negligible when compared to the irreparable harm ELL students have suffered for nearly six years due to the state's inaction," Collins said.

Plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit challenging the adequacy of Arizona's instruction for approximately 150,000 ELL students argued that the state's failure to improve ELL programs made it was unfair for the state to impose the mandate on those students, and Collins agreed in a December order.

Department of Education officials have said approximately 1,400 ELL students would be affected by the exemption this year.

Collins also is considering a motion by the state to distribute to schools the $21 million in daily fines that the state accumulated for failing to meet a deadline set by Collins to improve and adequately funding the program. He has scheduled an April 3 hearing on whether a law passed March 2 satisfies his order.

In his 2000 ruling, the other judge ruled that Arizona's programs were inadequately funded, leaving shortfalls in such areas as teacher training, class size