LOS ANGELES (AP) – A Los Angeles judge ruled tentatively Tuesday that the state of California needs to respond to reports that a quarter of school districts failed to educate English learners.

Three Spanish-speaking students brought the case in Superior Court based on state data that show 20,000 students statewide weren’t provided required English language instruction. The suit alleged that lack of instruction held some students back a grade or led to low test scores because of language barriers.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which represented the students, wants the California Department of Education to make sure all schools comply with requirements to provide an equal education to non-English speakers as required by state and federal law.

ACLU attorney Mark Rosenbaum said the judge ruled that the state must respond to reports that 252 school districts didn’t provide necessary classes for English learners.

Figures reported by the school districts ranged from Los Angeles Unified School District, which failed to educate 4,150 of 194,904 English learners, to Twain Harte-Long Barn Union Elementary in the Sierra foothills that failed to educate its one English learner, according to the ACLU.

The state attorney general’s office argued in court papers that the ACLU relied on a survey of school districts that doesn’t provide an accurate picture. The state said it adequately educates 98 percent of its 1.4 million English learners. It also said the case shouldn’t be in court because the three students are all proficient English speakers who haven’t been harmed in any way.

Judge James Chalfant ruled tentatively based on court briefs. He will make a final ruling after hearing arguments from both sides.

The civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice filed court papers supporting the ACLU’s case.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.


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