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AIMS Lawsuit

By Howard Fischer

Phoenix, AZ – Attorney Ellen Katz said statistics show that on
average, students who are economically disadvantaged,
are ethnic or racial minorities or are not fluent in
English score lower on the tests. Katz said that is
because the state doesn't spend enough to ensure that
these students get the education they need to get a
passing grade. So she and attorney Tim Hogan are asking
a judge to ban the state from denying a diploma to any
student solely because he or she did not pass the
reading, writing and math sections of the test. Katz is
arguing that these students need extra help, ranging
from full-day kindergarten and smaller classes to
tutoring and after school programs.

(And that's not being provided to these students. So
what we have is we have a situation where they're being
held to a standard, learning the academic standards of
the state. And the state hasn't provided them with
adequate resources.)

State School Superintendent Tom Horne is not disputing
Katz' statistics that certain groups are having more
trouble passing AIMS. But he said the whole purpose of
the test is to ensure that students have learned what
they need. And Horns said letting them graduate without
passing AIMS isn't the answer.

(If all kids passed, then it might not be a very
demanding test. And indeed I've been criticized that
the percentage of kids passing is now so high that
maybe the test needs to be more demanding.)

But Katz said this isn't a question of a certain
percentage of kids from all groups failing the test.
She said it's the poor and minorities that are more
likely to fail -- and more likely be denied a diploma.
Horne rejected that as a basis to scrap the test.

(There are historical problems that we work hard to
solve. But we can't abandon all efforts for educational
standards because it takes time to solve historical

That, said Katz, goes to the core of her argument: The
state simply decides how much money it is giving to
schools without ever computing what is really necessary
to do the job right.

(They've never looked at what are the services that
certain groups need. That's what we're saying. We're
saying there needs to be a determination as to what an
adequate education would cost. And then the state needs
to come up with the money.)

But Horne said Katz and Hogan are off base in arguing
that somehow the state is constitutionally required to
spend more money to educate the students who are having
a hard time passing AIMS.

(That's a policy decision. That's not a constitutional
requirement. The constitution requires us to treat
everyone equally. And we do spend more on our poor
students, we spend more on our English language
learners. We spend more on every category that he lists
in his lawsuit. But the amount that we spend more is a
policy decision, not a constitutional question.)

Katz, however, is not relying simply on what the state
constitution requires. She also is arguing that the
lack of funds violates students due process rights as
well as their civil rights. No date has been set for a
hearing. In Phoenix, for Arizona Public Radio this is
Howard Fischer.