Court weighs state's duty to English learners

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WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court today took up an Arizona case that could limit a federal court's power to tell states to spend more money to educate students who aren't proficient in English.

The justices seemed to divide into liberal and conservatives camps during the arguments.

Some of the court's more liberal justices -- David Souter and Stephen Breyer -- repeatedly challenged assertions by attorney Kenneth Starr that court oversight of Arizona's English learners program is no longer needed. That's because, said Starr, the Nogales Unified School District, located on the U.S.-Mexico border, has made progress educating students learning to speak English.

On the other hand, Justice Antonin Scalia, part of the court's conservative wing, said he found it "bizarre" to be talking about what the whole state has to do on the basis of one district.

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