Civil Rights Groups Back NCLB in 6th Circuit Brief

By Mark Walsh — February 26, 2008 1 min read
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My colleague David Hoff reports here in his NCLB: Act II blog that a coalition of civil rights groups has filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging a federal appeals court to reconsider its ruling that revived a major challenge to the No Child Left Behind Act as an unfunded federal mandate.

The groups are joining the side of U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, who earlier this month asked the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, in Cincinnati, to reconsider a ruling by a three-judge panel of the court in Pontiac School District v. Spellings. The court ruled that the states were not on clear notice of their potential financial obligations when they agreed to accept federal funding under the No Child Left Behind law.

See my last blog item on the case here, and last Education Week story here.

The brief was officially filed by the Connecticut Conference of the NAACP and three students from that state, but it also has the backing of the NAACP’s national office, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, and Washington civil rights lawyer William L. Taylor.

Those groups have intervened to help defend the NCLB law in a federal challenge brought by the state of Connecticut, which Ed Week reported on here.

The civil rights groups’ 6th Circuit brief (available for download here) argues that that panel’s decision “invites states that elect to receive federal funding [under NCLB] to use ‘ambiguous’ statutory language as a means of reneging on their obligations, at the expense of low-income and minority children.”

The plaintiffs in the case, which are several school districts and state teachers’ union affiliates backed by the National Education Association, had not been asked to respond to Secretary Spellings’ request for rehearing as of last week.

It is up to the discretion of the 6th Circuit court whether the full court will give “en banc” reconsideration to the closely watched NCLB case. And, strictly speaking, it is up to that court’s discretion as to whether it will accept friend-of-the-court briefs from the civil rights groups or anyone else.

A decision from the full court on whether it will grant reconsidertion is probably still at least a few weeks away.

A version of this news article first appeared in The School Law Blog.