rational relationship

Horne v. Flores; Speaker of the Arizona House v. Flores (consolidated)


1.   Whether increasing general funding for English Language Learner Programs in Arizona by millions of dollars, hiring more qualified teachers, decreasing class size, and creating new programs satisfies the "substantial change of fact" requirement necessary to be granted relief under Rule 60(b)(5) even when the court feels that the funding is still inadequate.

2.     Whether the subsequently passed No Child Left Behind Statute should be used to help define the ambiguous "appropriate action" standard of the Equal Education Opportunities Act, or whether the two statutes serve different purposes and therefore should not be treated as informing one another.


Since 1992, Miriam Flores has been claiming that Arizona does not provide equal education opportunities to students who do not speak English as their first language, in violation of the Equal Education Opportunities Act of 1974 ("EEOA"), 20 U.S.C. § 1701 et seq. In 2000, a federal district court, finding that Arizona's English Language Learners ("ELL") programs were underfunded, agreed with Flores and ordered Arizona to provide adequate funds to their ELL programs. Arizona did not comply with the order to the court's satisfaction, but did improve their ELL programs through other, managerial type mechanisms. The Arizona House Speaker and Senate President sought Rule 60(b) relief from the court order, claiming that the improvements to the schools constituted "appropriate action" as required by the EEOA. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denied them relief and now the Supreme Court will have to decide (1) whether Arizona's improvements to its ELL programs, although not achieved through court-ordered sufficient funding increases, constituted "appropriate action" and thus were sufficient for Rule 60(b) relief from the court order, and (2) in determining this question, whether the court should define "appropriate action" using the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001's specific standards for the implementation of adequate English Language Learner programs.

Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties 

Questions Presented in 08-289

1. By interpreting the phrase "appropriate action" under Section 1703(f) of the Equal Education Opportunity Act as a requirement that the State of Arizona provide for a minimum amount of funding specifically allocated for English Language Learner programs statewide, did the Ninth Circuit violate the doctrine prohibiting federal courts from usurping the discretionary power of state governments to determine how to appropriately manage and fund their public education systems?

2. Should the phrase "appropriate action" as used in Section 1703(f) of the Equal Education Opportunity Act be interpreted consistently with the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, where both Acts have the same purpose with respect to English Language Learners and the NCLB provides specific standards for the implementation of adequate English Language Learner programs, but the EEOA does not?

Questions Presented in 08-294

1. Whether a federal-court injunction seeking to compel institutional reform should be modified in the public interest when the original judgment could not have been issued on the state of facts and law that now exist, even if the named defendants support the injunction.

2. Whether compliance with NCLB's extensive requirements for English language instruction is sufficient to satisfy the EEOA's mandate that States take "appropriate action" to overcome language barriers impeding students' access to equal educational opportunities.

In the small Mexican border city of Nogales, Arizona, the vast majority of primary through high school students are Hispanic, and Spanish is their primary language. See Flores v. Horne, 516 F.3d 1140, 1145 (Feb.

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Horne v. Flores (08-289); Speaker of the Arizona House v. Flores (08-294) (consolidated)

Oral argument: Apr. 20, 2009

Appealed from: United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit (Feb. 22, 2008)

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