No rest for the weary&
April 20, 2005
Margaret Spellings is a busy, busy woman these days. It seems that earlier, isolated outbursts of discontent about No Child Left Behind (See "Flexibility and NCLB," and "Dismantling NCLB..." for more) have now exploded into a multi-front war this week. On Wednesday, the NEA, a smattering of school districts in three states, and a host of NEA affiliates in seven others filed the long-promised lawsuit against NCLB in U.S. District Court for eastern Michigan. The suit accuses the federal government of failing to provide enough money for states and districts to implement NCLB. "You don't have to do anything this law requires unless you receive federal funds to do it," said NEA general counsel Bob Chanin, laying out the plaintiffs' position that the government can't force unfunded mandates on states. At least we agree on one thing. As Gadfly - and other reputable sources, such as the GAO; see http://www.edexcellence.net/gadfly/issue.cfm?issue=151#1855 for more details - has noted, you don't have to do anything at all relating to NCLB, so long as you choose to forego the federal funding. Meanwhile, there has been a 40 percent increase in federal education spending since 2001, most of it related to NCLB, from $17.4 billion to $24.4 billion. These facts do not bode well for the lawsuit. Also this week, Connecticut continues to threaten its own lawsuit after an unproductive palaver with the Secretary. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal gave a blunt assessment: "This meeting yielded vague . . . happy talk, but no specific commitment to end unfunded mandates." (Apparently, it did not yield the personal apology that Connecticut schools chief Betty Sternberg had been seeking from Ms. Spellings; see http://www.edexcellence.net/gadfly/issue.cfm?issue=189#2257.) And the Beehive state continues to buzz. Spellings sent a stern letter to Utah legislators in advance of their impending anti-NCLB vote (for more background on Utah's legislation, see "Rebellion in Utah," ) that warned, "The consequences of enacting and implementing this bill would be so detrimental to students in Utah." Specifically, the state stands to lose at least $76 million in federal funds. State legislators, however, seem prepared to pay that price, as both House and Senate passed the bill handily. We hope the Secretary isn't planning any extended vacations this summer.
"No apologies at 'No Child' meeting," by Robert A. Frahm, Hartford Courant, April 19, 2005
"Spellings warns Utah in battle over federal act," by George Archibald, Washington Times, April 19, 2005
"First national suit over education law," by Ben Feller, Associated Press, April 20, 2005
"Utah vote rejects parts of education law," by Sam Dillon, New York Times, April 20, 2005
Statement by the Press Secretary on NEA lawsuit, U.S. Department of Education press release, April 20, 2005