University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
new search
page permalink
Case Name Flores v. Arizona ED-AZ-0001
Docket / Court 92-0596 ( D. Ariz. )
State/Territory Arizona
Case Type(s) Education
Case Summary
This school funding case was filed on August 20, 1992 in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona. The plaintiffs, several students and their parents, claimed that the state failed to adequately fund programs for English language learners (ELLs). In 2000, the district court ... read more >
This school funding case was filed on August 20, 1992 in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona. The plaintiffs, several students and their parents, claimed that the state failed to adequately fund programs for English language learners (ELLs). In 2000, the district court found that state's method and level of funding ELL programs was "arbitrary and capricious" and ordered that the level of state funding for ELL programs bear a rational relationship to the cost of those programs. The parties reached an agreement in 2002, and the court ordered a costing-out study. In January 2004, plaintiffs filed a motion for contempt due to the alleged failure of the state to comply.

In January 2005, after numerous delays by the state, the court ordered additional ELL funding. The state's failure to comply led to a December 2005 order and daily fines that mounted to $21 million before the state enacted additional funding in early March 2006. Moreover, the court enjoined the state from requiring ELL students to pass the state exit exam in order to get a diploma.

In August 2006, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in Flores v. Rzeslawski, vacated the 2005 district court judgment and remanded the case so the district court could hold "an evidentiary hearing and ma[k]e findings of fact regarding whether changed circumstances required modification of the [January 2000] court order or otherwise ha[ve] a bearing on the appropriate remedy."

In March 2007 Judge Raner Collins of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona ruled that Arizona is still illegally under-funding programs directed towards English learners, that it is in violation of multiple federal laws, and that $600 million of federal education funding that Arizona receives may be in jeopardy.

The ruling invalidated HB 2064, the funding formula passed by the Arizona legislature in response to the court's earlier decision. HB 2064, which would raise the amount of funding directed for ELL programs from $365 to $444 per pupil, Judge Collins ruled, is insufficient to meet the needs of ELL students. The formula, he noted, provides significantly less than was recommended by a court-ordered cost study completed in 2005.

According to the federal Equal Educational Opportunities Act (EEOA), under which the court struck down HB 2064, states are required to ensure that all students, regardless of native language, have the opportunity for "equal participation" in public education. The insufficient funding, Judge Collins, ruled, violates this federal law.

Judge Collins also ruled HB 2064 illegal for other reasons. First, it mandates that schools can only receive the additional funding for a student for two years. The record in the case showed that many ELL students take longer - often four or five years - to become proficient in English. In addition, the bill stipulates that districts are required to use a portion of their Title I, Title II, and Title III federal funds to pay for ELL services before they get state aid. All of these federal funds are given under the condition that they will "supplement not supplant" state monies; accordingly, this requirement is illegal and jeopardizes the $600 million in federal funding that Arizona receives, the court ruled.

Judge Collins ordered the state to comply with the 2000 order by the end of the 2007 legislative session, but the legislature failed to do so. On October 11, 2007, Judge Collins issued a contempt order, giving the legislature until March 4, 2008 to bring ELL funding into compliance or face sanctions. Meanwhile, the state appealed Judge Collins' order to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

On February 22, 2008, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court judgment in favor of plaintiffs. The court found that the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) did not relieve states of the obligation to adhere to the mandates of the EEOA. According to the court, this means that even if Arizona could show that its schools are making "adequate yearly progress" toward improving overall academic achievement, individual students still have the right to bring civil rights claims under the EEOA. Describing the distinction between the two federal laws at issue, the court wrote, "The EEOA's concerns...lie fundamentally with the current rights of individual students, while NCLB seeks gradually to improve their schools." The court went on to explain the ramifications of a decision in favor of the State: "[Its] view, if adopted, would effectively repeal the EEOA by replacing its equality-based framework with the gradual remedial framework of NCLB." Based on the foregoing, the court held that "it is not inequitable to continue to require compliance" with the district court order.

In September 2008, the defendants petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' holding that the state was not meeting its legal obligation to English-language learners.

On November 3, 2008, the District Court began further hearings on compliance issues.

On January 9, 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal of lower-court rulings that the state was not abiding by federal law and was not adequately funding programs for English-language learners. In Horne v. Flores, 129 S. Ct. 2579 (2009), the Supreme Court reversed. It held that the District Court and Court of Appeals improperly evaluated the case by simply deciding whether a previous order had been satisfied. They went on to explain that the defendants could also be relieved from the previous order in the event that changed circumstances made its enforcement inequitable. On remand, the Supreme Court directed the District Court to examine (1) whether the State's switch to structured English emersion constituted a changed circumstance which would warrant relief, (2) whether the provisions of NCLB constituted a changed circumstance which would warrant relief, (3) whether Arizona's efforts to reduce class sizes, teacher to student ratios and teacher quality constituted changed circumstances which would warrant relief, and (4) whether Arizona's increased funding to ELL constituted a changed circumstance which would warrant relief. Furthermore, the Court directed the District Court to re-examine the alleged state-wide noncompliance with the EEOA, as there were neither factual findings nor evidence on record supporting that allegation.

The 9th Circuit supplemented this order on September 1, 2009 by vacating the District Court's contempt order and award of attorneys' fees.

On March 28, 2013, Judge Collins granted the defendants' motion to dismiss the plaintiff's statewide claims. Judge Collins, in granting the defendants' motion to dismiss and vacating the Jan. 24, 2000 judgment, stated that the factual basis of the case had changed: the adoption of Structured English Immersion methodology; the enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act, structural and management reforms; and an increase in overall education funding. Further, the plaintiffs advanced only one statewide claim, alleging that the implementation of the "four hour model" (an ESL model requiring four hours of language instruction per day, in this case being applied differently throughout the state) constituted a statewide EEOA violation. Judge Collins concluded that, because the plaintiffs only presented evidence from a few school districts, they did not establish standing to bring a statewide claim. Judge Collins held that the plaintiff's "statewide" claim required, instead, district-by-district analysis. The plaintiff appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, where oral argument was held in January 2015.

In June 2015, The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued its mandate. Based on the record, the court found that the plaintiff's challenge to the four hour model failed on its merits. The 9th Circuit affirmed the district court's finding that ELLs are appropriately exposed to the necessary academic content at some point during their education. Furthermore, the plaintiff's claims of ELLs segregation were unsupported by the evidence. The four hour model was a relatively recent program and there was not a lot of evidence on ELL performance; based on the evidence that did exist however, the 9th Circuit affirmed that the plaintiffs could not show their challenges to the program required maintaining an injunction. The district court's vacation of the injunction was affirmed. If new EEOA violations emerged, however, a new lawsuit could be brought.

Joshua Arocho - 07/17/2012
Kevin Nomura - 03/02/2015
Carolyn Weltman - 02/21/2016

compress summary

- click to show/hide ALL -
Issues and Causes of Action
click to show/hide detail
Affected Gender
Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Elementary/Secondary School
Language discrimination
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983
Defendant(s) State of Arizona
Plaintiff Description Students in Arizona who were not native English speakers. For purposes of this case, they are referred to as English Language Learners ("ELLs").
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Order Duration 2002 - 2015
Filing Year 1992
Case Closing Year 2015
Case Ongoing No
4:92−cv−00596 (D. Ariz.)
ED-AZ-0001-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/07/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Order (Denying Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment) (48 F.Supp.2d 937) (D. Ariz.)
ED-AZ-0001-0013.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 04/14/1999
Source: Westlaw
Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law (172 F.Supp.2d 1225) (D. Ariz.)
ED-AZ-0001-0014.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 01/24/2000
Source: Westlaw
Order (160 F.Supp.2d 1043) (D. Ariz.)
ED-AZ-0001-0015.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 10/12/2000
Source: Westlaw
Order (2001 WL 1028369) (D. Ariz.)
ED-AZ-0001-0016.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 06/25/2001
Source: Westlaw
Order (Granting Motion to Intervene by Engineering Companies and General Contractors) [ECF# 326] (D. Ariz.)
ED-AZ-0001-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/05/2005
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order "WO" (Injunction & Sanctions) [ECF# 335] (405 F.Supp.2d 1112) (D. Ariz.)
ED-AZ-0001-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 12/16/2005
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Civil Order (Granting Motion to Intervene by Arizona Legislature) [ECF# 390] (D. Ariz.)
ED-AZ-0001-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/14/2006
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order on Motions for Stay Nos. 1 and 2 [ECF# 392] (D. Ariz.)
ED-AZ-0001-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/16/2006
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Re: Distribution of Fines [ECF# 393] (D. Ariz.)
ED-AZ-0001-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/17/2006
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum (Remanding for Evidentiary Hearing) (204 Fed.Appx. 580)
ED-AZ-0001-0009.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 08/23/2006
Source: Westlaw
Order (480 F.Supp.2d 1157) (D. Ariz.)
ED-AZ-0001-0010.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 03/22/2007
Source: Westlaw
Opinion (516 F.3d 1140)
ED-AZ-0001-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | External Link | Detail
Date: 02/22/2008
Petition for a Writ of Certiorari
ED-AZ-0001-0008.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 08/29/2008
Brief for the Washington Legal Foundation as Amicus Curiae in Support of Petitioners (Certiorari)
ED-AZ-0001-0020.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 10/06/2008
Combined Brief in Opposition by Respondents (Certiorari)
ED-AZ-0001-0017.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 12/01/2008
Respondents' Brief in Opposition (Certiorari)
ED-AZ-0001-0018.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 12/01/2008
Reply Brief for Petitioners (Certiorari)
ED-AZ-0001-0019.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 12/11/2008
Brief of Education-Policy Scholars as Amici Curiae in Support of Petitioners
ED-AZ-0001-0028.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 02/14/2009
Brief for the Petitioner Superintendent
ED-AZ-0001-0021.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 02/19/2009
Brief for Petitioners
ED-AZ-0001-0022.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 02/19/2009
Brief Amicus Curiae of Pacific Legal Foundation and Evergreen Freedom Foundation in Support of Petitioners
ED-AZ-0001-0023.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 02/25/2009
Brief of the American Unity Legal Defense Fund, English Language Political Action Committee, ProEnglish and the Center for Equal Opportunity, as Amici Curiae Supporting Petitioners
ED-AZ-0001-0024.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 02/25/2009
Brief Amicus Curiae of Eagle Forum Education & Legal Defense Fund, Inc., in Support of Petitioners
ED-AZ-0001-0025.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 02/25/2009
Brief for the Washington Legal Foundation as Amicus Curiae in Support of Petitioners
ED-AZ-0001-0026.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 02/26/2009
Amicus Curiae Brief of Mountain States Legal Foundation in Support of Petitioner
ED-AZ-0001-0027.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 02/26/2009
Brief on Behalf of the American Legislative Exchange Council and Certain Individual State Legislators as Amici Curiae in Support of Petitioners
ED-AZ-0001-0029.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 02/26/2009
Opinion (557 U.S. 433)
ED-AZ-0001-0030.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/25/2009
Source: Supreme Court website
Order [Ct. of App. ECF# 367] (577 F.3d 1014)
ED-AZ-0001-0031.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 08/13/2009
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Ct. of App. ECF# 870]
ED-AZ-0001-0032.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/01/2009
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 952] (D. Ariz.)
ED-AZ-0001-0033.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/19/2010
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendants State of Arizona and State Board of Education's Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions Law [ECF# 1066]
ED-AZ-0001-0034.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/18/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Statewide Claims [ECF# 1082] (D. Ariz.)
ED-AZ-0001-0035.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/28/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion [Ct. of App. ECF# 109] (789 F.3d 994)
ED-AZ-0001-0036.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/15/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Alito, Samuel A. Jr. (SCOTUS, Third Circuit)
Berzon, Marsha Siegel (Ninth Circuit)
Collins, Raner Christercunean (D. Ariz.)
ED-AZ-0001-0001 | ED-AZ-0001-0002 | ED-AZ-0001-0003 | ED-AZ-0001-0004 | ED-AZ-0001-0005 | ED-AZ-0001-0010 | ED-AZ-0001-0033 | ED-AZ-0001-0035 | ED-AZ-0001-9000
Fletcher, Betty Binns (Ninth Circuit)
Friedland, Michelle Taryn (Ninth Circuit)
Hug, Procter Ralph Jr. (Ninth Circuit)
Kleinfeld, Andrew Jay (Ninth Circuit, D. Alaska)
Marquez, Alfredo Chavez (D. Ariz.)
ED-AZ-0001-0013 | ED-AZ-0001-0014 | ED-AZ-0001-0015 | ED-AZ-0001-0016
Paez, Richard A. (C.D. Cal., Ninth Circuit)
Rawlinson, Johnnie B. (Ninth Circuit, D. Nev.)
Smith, Milan Dale Jr. (Ninth Circuit)
Plaintiff's Lawyers Baron, David S. (District of Columbia)
Herr-Cardillo, Joy E. (Arizona)
Hogan, Timothy Michael (Arizona)
ED-AZ-0001-0017 | ED-AZ-0001-9000
Morris, William Eric (Arizona)
Defendant's Lawyers Adams, Lynne Christensen (Arizona)
Bales, W. Scott (Arizona)
Bistrow, Eric J. (Arizona)
ED-AZ-0001-0008 | ED-AZ-0001-0021 | ED-AZ-0001-9000
Cardenas, Jose A. (Arizona)
ED-AZ-0001-0018 | ED-AZ-0001-9000
Cooper, Leslie Kyman (Arizona)
Demarchi, Kimberly Anne (Arizona)
ED-AZ-0001-0018 | ED-AZ-0001-9000
Dulberg, Michael S. (Arizona)
ED-AZ-0001-0008 | ED-AZ-0001-0021 | ED-AZ-0001-9000
Galvin, Jeanne Marie (Arizona)
Garner, David D. (Arizona)
ED-AZ-0001-0018 | ED-AZ-0001-0034 | ED-AZ-0001-9000
Goddard, Terry (Arizona)
Hall, Roger W. (Arizona)
Iyer, Melissa G. (Arizona)
ED-AZ-0001-0008 | ED-AZ-0001-0021 | ED-AZ-0001-9000
Kushibab, Peter D. (Arizona)
Manhart, Daryl (Arizona)
ED-AZ-0001-0008 | ED-AZ-0001-0021 | ED-AZ-0001-9000
O'Grady, Mary Ruth (Arizona)
Park, Jinju (Arizona)
Preston, Mariannina E. (Arizona)
Segal, Susan P. (Arizona)
ED-AZ-0001-0018 | ED-AZ-0001-9000
Selzer, Sarah (Arizona)
Skladany, Terri M. (Arizona)
Talenfeld, Elliott (Arizona)
Other Lawyers Brown, D. Aaron (Arizona)
ED-AZ-0001-0019 | ED-AZ-0001-0022
Browne, Sharon L. (Florida)
Cantelme, David J. (Arizona)
ED-AZ-0001-0019 | ED-AZ-0001-0022 | ED-AZ-0001-9000
Chiou, Christopher C. (California)
ED-AZ-0001-0019 | ED-AZ-0001-0022
Claffee, Scott A. (District of Columbia)
Cooper, Seth L. (District of Columbia)
Cutts, Kyle T. (California)
Detamore, James Scott (Colorado)
Farrell, Michael J. (Arizona)
Friedman, Michael J. (New York)
ED-AZ-0001-0020 | ED-AZ-0001-0026
Gieseler, Steven Geoffrey (Florida)
Haskins, Steven A. (California)
ED-AZ-0001-0019 | ED-AZ-0001-0022
Himmelfarb, Dan (District of Columbia)
Joseph, Lawrence J (District of Columbia)
Manley, James M. (Colorado)
Messerly, Ronald W. (Arizona)
Milczarek-Desai, Shefali (Arizona)
Neil, Paul R. (Arizona)
ED-AZ-0001-0019 | ED-AZ-0001-0022
O'Brien, Robert (California)
Overholt, Keith F. (Arizona)
Parrish, Ashley C. (District of Columbia)
ED-AZ-0001-0019 | ED-AZ-0001-0022
Phillips, Jonathan E. (California)
Popeo, Daniel J. (District of Columbia)
ED-AZ-0001-0020 | ED-AZ-0001-0026
Reitz, Michael (Washington)
Richardson, John C (Arizona)
Richmond, Rick (California)
ED-AZ-0001-0019 | ED-AZ-0001-0022
Rosenbaum, David B. (Arizona)
Samp, Richard A. (District of Columbia)
ED-AZ-0001-0020 | ED-AZ-0001-0026
Sandler, Ross (New York)
ED-AZ-0001-0020 | ED-AZ-0001-0026
Schaerr, Gene C. (District of Columbia)
ED-AZ-0001-0020 | ED-AZ-0001-0026
Schlafly, Andrew L. (New Jersey)
Schoenbrod, David (New York)
ED-AZ-0001-0020 | ED-AZ-0001-0026
Shapiro, Stephen M. (Illinois)
Sienicki, James J. (Arizona)
Starr, Kenneth Winston (District of Columbia)
ED-AZ-0001-0019 | ED-AZ-0001-0022
Waldman, Ari E. (New York)
ED-AZ-0001-0020 | ED-AZ-0001-0026
Zall, Barnaby W (Maryland)

- click to show/hide ALL -

new search
page permalink

- top of page -