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Students Challenge AIMS Test

Media Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 18, 2006
(602) 252-3432

CONTACT: Ellen Katz

Students Challenge AIMS Test as High School Graduation Requirement Because of State’s Arbitrary and Inadequate Funding of Services for Students

PHOENIX – The William E. Morris Institute for Justice, the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest and Phoenix attorney Jeremy Butler, filed a class action lawsuit, Espinoza v. State of Arizona, in the Superior Court in Maricopa County against the State of Arizona, the State Board of Education and Tom Horne, the Superintendent of Public Education. The lawsuit is filed on behalf of all students in the Class of 2006 and each succeeding senior class who have met or will meet all the requirements for graduation by the end of their senior year, except they have not passed the AIMS test. The class includes poor students, ethnic and minority students and current and previous English Language Learners.

The Class of 2006 is the first class to have to pass AIMS in order to graduate and receive a diploma. As of December 2005, approximately 10,000 students had not passed the AIMS test.

In the lawsuit, Plaintiffs allege that the state’s school funding system is arbitrary and not based on educational need. Plaintiffs allege Arizona ranks near the bottom in most national educational rankings; Arizona is next to last in school funding; Arizona ranks fourth from the bottom in teacher/student ratio; Arizona class sizes are above the national average; and Arizona’s dropout rate is high.

Plaintiffs allege that because Arizona’s funding of education is arbitrary and not based on educational need, they have not been provided the services and programs they need to achieve the state’s academic standards and pass the AIMS test. The students are requesting that until the state adequately funds education and provides services and programs based on the educational need of the students, the state should not be allowed to require that students pass the AIMS test in order to graduate and receive their diploma.

Ellen Katz, the Litigation Director for the Institute stated: “The failure to graduate from high school will have drastic social and economic impacts on these students. Studies have shown students without a high school diploma will have a 75% higher unemployment rate than high school graduates; will be two times as likely to be poor; will earn 30% less than high school graduates; and will have an increased reliance on public assistance. Significantly, two-thirds of all state prison inmates in this country did not graduate high school. In addition, students who do not graduate from high school cannot attend universities and do not qualify for financial aid. We claim that the denial of a high school degree and a diploma will have life-long adversely consequences for these students.”

A copy of the complaint can obtained from the William E. Morris Institute for Justice.

For further information, contact Ellen Katz at (602) 252-3432.

The William E. Morris Institute is a non-profit advocacy program working on issues for low income Arizonans.

The Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest is a non-profit law program that specializes in education cases.

Jeremy Butler is a local attorney in Phoenix, Arizona.