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Next month, after nearly 17 years of litigation, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether Arizona is complying with federal laws requiring public schools to teach children to speak English.

The Flores vs. Arizona case was brought up in 1992 by a Nogales, AZ mother because her daughter, Mia Flores (now a 23-year old college student), struggled in her English-only classes. Since the early 90s, the way ELL students learn has drastically changed. Now students, who are struggling with English, are provided four hours of intensive English every day in small classes. The training costs about $1,570 per student compared to just $150 per child when Mia was in school. In Nogales, where Spanish is used in most homes, the state only provides $385 per child for the English program. The district has to come up with the rest themselves.

The issue has officials split down party lines. Some believe that Arizona should give more money to the program, while others believe that federal courts should not be dictating how states spend education funding.

With five million school-age children nationwide who do not speak proficient English — one in 10 of the nation’s students — the Supreme Court’s ruling could affect spending on English language learners in many states.

Learn more about the case.

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