Federal

3 of 4 Claims in Conn.’s NCLB Suit Dismissed

By Andrew Trotter — October 03, 2006 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A federal judge last week dismissed three of the four claims in Connecticut’s lawsuit challenging the No Child Left Behind Act, largely on procedural grounds.

The Sept. 27 ruling by Judge Mark R. Kravitz of the U.S. District Court in Hartford, Conn., left both the state and the U.S. Department of Education claiming a victory of sorts.

Connecticut sued U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings last year in a bid to force the federal government to increase its funding to a level that the state contends would be sufficient to meet the education law’s mandates, which include yearly testing of most students between grades 3 and 8 and once during high school.

“An alternative would be to afford greater flexibility” in implementing the law, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said of the state’s goals, in a statement after the ruling.

Ruling on the Education Department’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, Judge Kravitz concluded that he lacked jurisdiction to decide the merits of three of the state’s claims. For two of those, it was on the basis that the claims were premature because the secretary has not taken any enforcement action against the state.

Formative Tests

In its first claim, the state sought a declaration of the meaning of the No Child Left Behind law’s language barring “unfunded mandates.” The state contends that it is not required to spend its own funds to comply with the education law as the federal Education Department has interpreted it.

And the state disputes those interpretations, which undergird the department’s mandate that states do annual assessments of special education students at the students’ grade levels rather than at the students’ instructional levels, the state’s preference. The state also disagrees that the law requires that students who are not native speakers of English must take math assessments in their first year after arriving in the country and must take reading assessments the following year. The state wants to wait three years before beginning such tests.

The state, in its lawsuit, also disputes the federal requirement that “nonformative” annual testing occur annually from grades 3 to 8. The state wants to administer what are known as formative tests—tests designed specifically to help teachers measure students’ progress—to students in alternate years. Connecticut argues that such tests are more useful and less expensive than the nonformative tests.

In practice, however, to avoid penalties that could include the loss of federal aid, Connecticut has obeyed the federal interpretations of the education law.

Thus, Judge Kravitz concluded that he could not properly make a “pre-enforcement declaration” about whether the the secretary of education’s interpretation of the unfunded-mandate provision was correct.

“The word ‘pre-enforcement’ is used because, at this point, the state continues to comply with the act,” the judge wrote.

For similar reasons, the judge also dismissed the state’s claims based on the spending clause in Article I of the U.S. Constitution, which authorizes spending by Congress and is the hook by which the federal government requires states to accept obligations in exchange for federal funds.

Judge Kravitz also threw out the state’s claim that the Education Department’s denial of the state’s request for waivers was “arbitrary and capricious” under the federal Administrative Procedure Act, which sets ground rules for reviews of executive-branch decisions.

On that claim, the judge found no clear legal standards for weighing the state’s contention that Secretary Spellings failed to “meaningfully consider” one of the state’s waiver requests when she announced that she would refuse to consider any waivers that sought approval of formative testing in alternate grades.

“To be sure, the secretary and the state disagree about how best to implement the goals of the [NCLB] act,” the judge wrote. “But that policy disagreement can hardly be labeled an abdication of the secretary’s responsibilities.”

Suit ‘Alive and Well’?

But the judge kept alive the state’s claim that the Education Department acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” in denying the state’s request for amendments to its plan for complying with the education law’s provisions on testing non-native speakers of English and special education students.

The judge said deciding that question would require him to examine the administrative record on those matters. He set Oct. 16 as the deadline for the two sides to agree on a schedule for filing relevant information and for others to file motions and relevant papers to intervene in the case.

In a statement posted on his Web site, Attorney General Blumenthal said his state’s case against the NCLB law was “alive and well.”

Acknowledging that the judge had dismissed part of the state’s claims, Mr. Blumenthal said, “This ruling is solely on technical jurisdictional issues: The judge made clear that he has not ruled on the core legal issues of our case.”

The federal Education Department also considered the ruling a win. Katherine McLane, the press secretary for Secretary Spellings, said in a statement, “Importantly, the judge agreed that the secretary has discretion to deny a waiver request and that her decision is not reviewable by a court.”

“The remaining issues in this case have been reserved for another day, after the court considers other information,” Ms. McLane added.

A version of this article appeared in the October 04, 2006 edition of Education Week as 3 of 4 Claims in Conn.’s NCLB Suit Dismissed

Events

Jobs October 2021 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Using Integrated Analytics To Uncover Student Needs
Overwhelmed by data? Learn how an integrated approach to data analytics can help.

Content provided by Instructure
Classroom Technology Webinar How Pandemic Tech Is (and Is Not) Transforming K-12 Schools
The COVID-19 pandemic—and the resulting rise in virtual learning and big investments in digital learning tools— helped educators propel their technology skills to the next level. Teachers have become more adept at using learning management

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal Dept. of Ed., Florida Continue to Battle Over Ban on School Mask Mandates
Federal officials say they’ll intervene if the Florida Dept. of Ed. goes ahead with sanctions on districts with mask mandates.
Ana Ceballos, Miami Herald
2 min read
Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran speaks alongside Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, rear right, Fla. Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., left, state legislators, parents and educators, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in Doral, Fla.
Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran speaks alongside Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, rear right, Fla. Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., left, state legislators, parents and educators, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in Doral, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
Federal National School Board Group's Apology for 'Domestic Terrorism' Letter May Not Quell Uproar
The National School Boards Association voices "regret" for how it sought federal aid to address threats and harassment of school officials.
4 min read
Seminole County, Fla., deputies remove parent Chris Mink of Apopka from an emergency meeting of the Seminole County School Board in Sanford, Fla., Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021. Mink, the parent of a Bear Lake Elementary School student, opposes a call for mask mandates for Seminole schools and was escorted out for shouting during the standing-room only meeting.
Deputies remove a parent from an emergency meeting of the Seminole County School Board in Sanford, Fla., after the parent, who opposes a call for mask mandates for Seminole schools, shouts during the standing-room only meeting.
Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP
Federal 'A Snitch Line on Parents.' GOP Reps Grill AG Over Response to Threats on School Officials
Attorney General Merrick Garland said his effort is meant to address violent threats against school boards, not to stifle parents' dissent.
5 min read
LEFT: Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks during a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing of the Department of Justice on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021. RIGHT: Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, questions Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Attorney General Merrick Garland, left, speaks during a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing of the U.S. Department of Justice on Capitol Hill on Thursday, questioned by Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, right, among others.
Greg Nash via AP, Andrew Harnik/AP
Federal School Boards, 'Domestic Terrorism,' and Free Speech: Inside the Debate
From critical race theory to COVID policy, the heat on schools has raised issues involving free speech and the safety of public officials.
13 min read
Brenda Stephens, a school board member with Orange County Public Schools in Hillsborough, N.C. has purchased a weapon and taken a concealed carry class over concerns for her personal safety.
Brenda Stephens, a school board member in Hillsborough, N.C., says board members face threats and bullying, an atmosphere far different from what she's encountered in years of board service.
Kate Medley for Education Week