Equal Educational Opportunity Act (EEOA)
Federal law requires states and school districts to provide an equal educational opportunity to students learning English. States and districts must take “appropriate action” to “overcome language barriers,” which usually means teaching academic content in the language students understand, while also teaching them English.
Litigations under the EEOA are before federal courts in Flores v. Horne, in Arizona, and United States v. Texas.
For the latest on the EEOA litigations in Arizona and Texas:
- Flores v. Horne, see Education Justice News, analyzing the 2009 U.S. Supreme Court decision, and see the decision itself. Education Law Center and other Civil Rights Groups , as well as several other groups, submitted amicus briefs to the Court in this appeal.
- On remand, the Flores plaintiffs argued that Arizona is violating the EEOA because it requires school districts to segregate English language learners (ELLs) for four hours of every six-hour school day. As a result, ELLs are denied access to math, science, and other subjects and, thereby, are denied equal educational opportunity. The parties await the court’s decision.
- United States v. Texas, visit MALDEF
Court Precedent on EEOA
One of the most influential EEOA cases is Castenada v. Pickard, 648 F.2d 989 (5th Cir. 1981). The court articulated a three-part test to determine whether language programs for English learners comply with the EEOA. Other federal courts have used this three-part test ever since:
- “Ascertain that a school system is pursuing a program informed by an educational theory recognized as sound by some experts in the field, or, at least deemed a legitimate experimental strategy...”
- Determine “whether the programs and practices actually used by a school system are reasonably calculated to implement effectively the educational theory adopted by the school.”
- Ensure that “after being employed for a period of time sufficient to give the plan a legitimate trial, [the plan] produce[s] results indicating that the language barriers confronting students are actually being overcome...” Castenada at 1009-10.
Also important to ELL students’ right to educational opportunity is the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Lau v. Nichols, 414 U.S. 563 (1974), ruling that public schools must address the needs of non-English speaking students because otherwise “students who do not understand English are effectively foreclosed from any meaningful education.” Lau at 566.
Please visit the Resources page to learn more.