Federal

Complaint Targets NCLB Transfers in Calif.

By David J. Hoff — March 28, 2006 5 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A team of conservative legal scholars last week filed a complaint charging that two Southern California school districts fail to offer students school choice as required under federal law and asked the U.S. Department of Education to withhold the districts’ federal funds.

The Los Angeles Unified and Compton Unified school districts haven’t adequately notified parents of their school choice rights, and they haven’t provided enough options for the children currently attending schools defined as in need of improvement under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, according to the administrative complaint by the Alliance for School Choice and the Coalition on Urban Renewal and Education. The groups petitioned U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings to penalize the districts for those failures.

BRIC ARCHIVE

While the Los Angeles school system has informed parents of their transfer options, its notifications have been late and have demanded that parents make decisions in a matter of weeks, according to the complaint. The Compton district, on the other hand, failed to even tell parents of their options, Clint Bolick, the president of the Phoenix-based Alliance for School Choice, said in an interview.

Compton “has literally done nothing” to comply with the school choice requirements under the No Child Left Behind law, said Mr. Bolick, a lawyer who was instrumental in the religious case that resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court 2002 decision that publicly funded vouchers for tuition at religious schools are constitutional.

“They assume that no one can do anything about it,” said Star Parker, the president of the Coalition on Urban Renewal and Education, or CURE, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization that supports private school choice. “They are daring the federal government to take their federal funds.”

The Los Angeles school district has been audited by state and federal officials, who found the district to be in compliance with the NCLB law’s school choice requirements, said John F. Walsh, an assistant general counsel for the district. Efforts to reach Compton school officials last week were unsuccessful.

Expanding Options?

Mr. Bolick said that the groups, which represent parents from both districts, needed to file administrative complaints because the NCLB law does not grant parents the right to sue in federal courts.

The 4-year-old law requires states to assess students in reading and mathematics in grades 3-8 and at least once in high school. Schools that fail to make adequate yearly progress—or AYP—toward having students proficient in those subjects by 2014 are declared to be in need of improvement.

Schools that fail to make AYP for two consecutive years must offer students the chance to transfer to other public schools in the district that have better track records in meeting AYP. The law allows systems to enter into alliances with neighboring districts, but few districts take advantage of that, Mr. Bolick said.

In the 760,000-student Los Angeles district, 527 students out of more than 250,000 who were eligible in the 2003-04 school year actually made an NCLB transfer, the complaint says. No students chose to switch schools in the 2004-05 school year under the law in the 31,500-student Compton district.

The law does not give students the option of transferring to private schools.

Through their actions filed last week, CURE and the Alliance for School Choice hope to improve parents’ chances of enrolling their children in public schools with better student achievement. But they also say that they are working to win approval from Congress to allow parents to transfer their children to private schools if their public schools fail to make AYP.

In Compton, a city south of Los Angeles, all of the district’s four high schools and eight middle schools failed to make AYP in the 2004-05 school year, leaving parents no viable options to choose from in the public school systems, Ms. Parker said.

“What do you do when all of your schools are broken?” she asked. “That means No Child Left Behind has a flaw.”

Broader Strategy

Mr. Bolick said part of the motivation for last week’s action is to spotlight the ineffectiveness of NCLB’s public-school-choice options in urban areas with high numbers of schools failing to make AYP. But he added that the effort is the first step in a lobbying campaign to expand the federal law’s choice options to include private schools. Congress is scheduled to reauthorize the law next year—a process that is likely to be delayed a year or more.

The legal team that filed last week’s complaints included Kenneth W. Starr, a former federal appeals court judge and the independent counsel in the Whitewater probe.

Including private schools in the law’s choice provision would be unlikely to dramatically change the number of students leaving their neighborhood public schools, said Jack Jennings, the president of the Center on Education Policy, a Washington-based policy group that closely tracks the law’s impact.

Based on its surveys of states and districts, the center estimates that 2 percent of eligible students take advantage of the transfer options, he said.

“The low percentage means it doesn’t make sense for many parents, and it doesn’t work in school districts,” said Mr. Jennings, a former aide to Democrats on the U.S. House of Representative’s education committee.

In the short term, if Ms. Spellings took away NCLB funds from Los Angeles and Compton, it would send a message to other districts that they need to do more to ensure the current NCLB options are available to students, Mr. Bolick said.

“Such an action would have an echoing effect across the country,” he said.

Kevin Sullivan, an Education Department spokesman, declined to say whether the secretary would consider withdrawing federal funds from the California districts based on last week’s complaints.

“We can all do a better job—the department, states, and school districts—to make sure strong public school choice and tutoring options are available to all parents as provided by No Child Left Behind,” Mr. Sullivan said in a statement.

A version of this article appeared in the March 29, 2006 edition of Education Week as Complaint Targets NCLB Transfers in Calif.

Events

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
School & District Management Webinar
Leadership in Education: Building Collaborative Teams and Driving Innovation
Learn strategies to build strong teams, foster innovation, & drive student success.
Content provided by Follett Learning
School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Principals, Lead Stronger in the New School Year
Join this free virtual event for a deep dive on the skills and motivation you need to put your best foot forward in the new year.
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
Privacy & Security Webinar
Navigating Modern Data Protection & Privacy in Education
Explore the modern landscape of data loss prevention in education and learn actionable strategies to protect sensitive data.
Content provided by  Symantec & Carahsoft

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 Project 2025 and the GOP Platform: What Each Says About K-12 in a 2nd Trump Term
A side-by-side look at what the two policy documents say on key education topics.
1 min read
Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at Trump National Doral Miami, Tuesday, July 9, 2024, in Doral, Fla.
Former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at Trump National Doral Miami, Tuesday, July 9, 2024, in Doral, Fla.
Rebecca Blackwell/AP
Federal What the 2024 GOP Platform Says About K-12 and What It Would Mean If Trump Wins
We break down what the GOP's 2024 policy platform says about education.
7 min read
Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at Trump National Doral Miami, Tuesday, July 9, 2024, in Doral, Fla.
Former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at Trump National Doral Miami, Tuesday, July 9, 2024, in Doral, Fla.
Rebecca Blackwell/AP
Federal Q&A Ed Research Isn't Always Relevant. This Official Is Trying to Change That
Matthew Soldner, the acting director of the Institute of Education Sciences, calls for new approaches to keep up with classroom tools.
5 min read
USmap ai states 535889663 02
Laura Baker/Education Week with iStock/Getty
Federal Project 2025: What It Is and What It Means for K-12 If Trump Wins
The comprehensive policy agenda proposes eliminating the U.S. Department of Education under a conservative president.
4 min read
Kevin Roberts, president of The Heritage Foundation, speaks before Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump at the National Religious Broadcasters convention at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center on Feb. 22, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn.
Kevin Roberts, president of The Heritage Foundation, speaks before Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump at the National Religious Broadcasters convention at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center on Feb. 22, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. Democrats are using the Heritage Foundation's Project 2025 agenda to show what could happen in a Trump presidency while the former president distances himself from it.
George Walker IV/AP