Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The NCLB Chronicles: There They Go Again!

The National Education Association and several school districts are once again tilting at windmills suing the federal government in an attempt to overturn the No Child Left Behind Act:
CINCINNATI --School districts in three states and the nation's largest teachers union asked a federal appeals court Tuesday to revive a lawsuit challenging the way a government education program is funded.

The 2.7 million-member National Education Association, its affiliates in Connecticut and nine other states, and school districts in Michigan, Vermont and Texas had sued to block the No Child Left Behind law, President Bush's signature education policy.

They argued that schools should not have to comply with requirements that aren't paid for by the federal government, and that the government is imposing unfunded mandates even though the act itself prohibits unfunded mandates.

Chief U.S. District Judge Bernard A. Friedman in Detroit dismissed the lawsuit in November 2005, saying the plaintiffs failed to support their claim.

NEA general counsel Robert Chanin, representing the Pontiac, Mich., school district and the other plaintiffs, told the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel Tuesday that states submitted compliance plans and requests for funding based on their understanding of the level of government support that would be provided.

But Congress appropriated far less than needed, leaving local school districts to make up the difference, he said.

"School districts would have no alternative but to divert money from other programs to fund No Child Left Behind," Chanin said.

Government attorney Alisa Klein argued that the intent of the law was never to fully fund the provisions laid out in the act, designed to make sure that children in poorer school districts have the same chance to become proficient in basic skills as students in wealthy districts.

"A state's commitment to making academic progress under the standards set out in its plan is the cornerstone of the act," the government said in its brief. "It cannot seriously be urged that a state could refuse to spend its own money to help its elementary and secondary schoolchildren become proficient in reading, science and math."

The law requires states to revise academic standards and develop tests to measure students' progress annually. If students fail to make progress, the law requires states to take action against school districts.

"No one disputes that the primary responsibility to educate children rests with the states," Chanin said.

Appeals Judge David McKeague asked Chanin why a school that did not like participating in No Child Left Behind could not simply walk away from it.

"We don't want to opt out," Chanin said. "This is a good program. We just want to participate on the terms Congress told us would apply."

Although the Pontiac school district is the plaintiff named in the lawsuit, the NEA is paying the costs of the appeal. Plaintiffs include nine school districts in Michigan, Texas and Vermont, and NEA affiliates in those states and in Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Utah.

A nationwide association of school administrators also supports the suit.

The three-judge appeals court panel took the case under advisement and did not say when it will rule. The outcome would apply directly to the districts in the case, but could affect how the law is enforced in schools across the country.
Readers who have spent any time at all around this site know that we're no fans of the National Education Association, NCLB, or The Queen of All Testing U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings and her minions the United States Department of Education.

But we call 'em like we see 'em.

Last time the NEA and its patsies allies sued the federal government in order to get NCLB thrown-out, the courts handed them their collective talking heads.

This time around will be no different
See our latest EduPosts, this date's Extra Credit Reading, and today's Carnival of Education.