The federal No Child Left Behind Act does not provide a private right to sue over its parental-notice and tutoring provisions, a federal appeals court has ruled.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, in Philadelphia, ruled unanimously in a case brought by a parents’ group in Newark, N.J.
“The overall structure of the act supports the conclusion that Congress did not intend to confer enforceable individual rights” under the parental-notice and supplemental-education-services provisions, the court said in its Nov. 20 decision in Newark Parents Association v. Newark Public Schools.
The court said it was the first federal appeals court to consider whether the NCLB law contains a private right of action, but it noted that every one of several federal district courts to rule on the issue has also decided that private suits aren’t authorized under the law.
The No Child Left Behind Act is the main federal K-12 education law, providing funding to the states and school districts in exchange for a host of accountability provisions. The law says that schools deemed in need of improvement must notify parents of the designation and of the fact that the district must pay for tutoring services for children in such schools.
The Newark group charged in its suit that parents of children in schools in need of improvement in the 40,000-student Newark district never received notice or received insufficient notice of their schools’ status and the opportunities for tutoring.
In its decision, the 3rd Circuit court said the NCLB law offers parental notice and supplemental education services “in the aggregate” and “not on any individual student’s right” to receive the services.
Meanwhile, another federal appeals court will hear arguments Dec. 10 in a separate lawsuit over the NCLB law. The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, in Cincinnati, will consider a lawsuit backed by the National Education Association that contends the federal education law imposes unfunded mandates on states and school districts in violation of the law’s own language.
A version of this article appeared in the December 03, 2008 edition of Education Week