NCLB Might Be Unfunded Mandate, Appeals Court Rules

January 07, 2008 1 min read

President Bush stopped in at a Chicago Elementary school to tout the success of NCLB on the day before its 6th anniversary. Usually that would be the biggest education story of the day.

Not today.

While Bush was flying to Chicago, three judges on the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals outdid him. In a decision that could dramatically shift the NCLB landscape, the judges ruled, 2-1, saying the lawsuit shouldn’t have been dismissed and suggesting they may rule in the plaintiffs’ favor if the case comes back to them.

For the short term, the suit is in the hands of a federal judge in Detroit and the implementation of the law probably won’t change much. In the long term, a decision declaring many of NCLB’s rules as unfunded mandates could restrict the federal government’s power to enforce NCLB’s testing and accountability rules.

The decision is a significant victory for the National Education Association, which organized the lawsuit. It also puts a damper on President Bush’s celebration of NCLB’s 6th anniversary in Chicago.


You can read about this at’s brand new blog on school law. The blog’s author, Mark Walsh, is talking to legal experts and promises to offer a better analysis that I’ve given here.

Here are the president’s comments after visiting Horace Greeley Elementary School and here is Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings’ briefing on Air Force One. Neither mentions the lawsuit.

And below are a bunch of stories from Education Week‘s archives. The links chronicle the lawsuit, starting with NEA President Reg Weaver’s 2003 speech in which he called NCLB “the granddaddy of all underfunded federal mandates:"

NEA Takes Stand Against Bush Education Law
NEA Seeks Allies to Bring Lawsuit on ESEA Funding
NEA Files ‘No Child Left Behind’ Lawsuit
NCLB Cases Face Hurdles in the Courts
U.S. Asks Court to Throw Out NEA Lawsuit Over NCLB
Suit Challenging NCLB Costs Is Dismissed

A version of this news article first appeared in the NCLB: Act II blog.