Federal

NEA Files ‘No Child Left Behind’ Lawsuit

By Bess Keller — April 20, 2005 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

After more than 1½ years of fanfare and false starts, the nation’s largest teachers’ union filed a lawsuit April 20 challenging the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The suit against the U.S. Department of Education was brought by the National Education Association on behalf of school districts in Pontiac, Mich.; Laredo, Texas; and south-central Vermont, as well as itself and 10 affiliates of the 2.7 million-member national union.

But the union’s original plan to sue only after finding a state to go along was apparently trumped when Connecticut officials recently announced that they had decided to challenge the law alone despite an offer of help from the NEA.

The NEA suit charges that the sweeping federal education law is illegal because it forces states to use their own money to carry out its mandates—contrary to a provision in the federal education law, the union says.

And the suit asks the U.S. District Court in Detroit to prohibit the Department of Education from threatening to withhold federal money if a state has to spend more to comply than Washington sends. Such an action would in effect pull most of the law’s teeth because state officials could decide themselves where to put their efforts without losing federal funding.

The idea behind the challenge is simple, said NEA President Reg Weaver: “If you regulate, you must pay.”

Federal education officials have repeatedly countered arguments about inadequate funding by pointing to what they say are “historic” levels of money budgeted to ensure that the law’s goals are met. And in theory, states could forgo federal education aid if they wished to be free of the mandates.

Funding Gap

Union officials initially said they were seeking a state to join the suit because it would offer stronger legal standing than that of school districts and teachers’ unions. For more than a year, no state stepped forward.

Then, two weeks ago, Connecticut’s attorney general announced that the state planned to sue the Education Department over the testing mandates in the law, a 3-year-old revision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Connecticut has not yet filed such a suit.

Meanwhile, Utah lawmakers passed a bill April 19 to have the state’s education priorities supersede the federal law. (“Utah Lawmakers Pass Bill Flouting NCLB,” April 20, 2005.)

NEA officials said the plaintiff districts were chosen because they represent a cross section of those the law is harming. The 10,900-student Pontiac district mainly enrolls African-American students, while Laredo’s 23,500 students are mostly of Hispanic ancestry. The six small districts that make up Vermont’s umbrella Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union are for the most part rural.

Experts have predicted that more signs of resistance to the federal law would surface as states and districts moved from the costs of planning, data collecting, and testing to those of trying to meet the student-performance levels required. The measure calls for increased testing, particularly in grades 3-8, with the aim of getting all students to a “proficient” level by 2014; higher teacher qualifications; and increasingly severe consequences for schools that fail to meet the academic standards.

According to the suit, the gap between the spending authorized by the law and the actual amount that goes to the states has been growing since it was passed. Further, a number of calculations by the states show that even the authorized amount would not be enough to provide the tutoring and greater school time that low-achieving students would minimally need to reach the bar.

Next year, the suit says, President Bush’s proposal to spend $13.34 billion on Title I, the main NCLB program serving disadvantaged students, would fall short of the authorized amount by more than $9 billion.

In addition, the suit contends, to meet federal mandates, states and districts have had to siphon money away from programs that education officials say would help students more in the long term.

The Education Department was preparing a response to the lawsuit.

Events

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
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
Student Well-Being Webinar
Building Teacher Capacity for Social-Emotional Learning
Set goals that support adult well-being and social-emotional learning: register today!


Content provided by Panorama
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.

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 '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
Federal Senate Confirms Catherine Lhamon to Civil Rights Post; Kamala Harris Casts Decisive Vote
Joe Biden's controversial pick to lead the Education Department's office for civil rights held that job in the Obama administration.
2 min read
Catherine Lhamon, nominee to be assistant secretary for civil rights at the Department of Education, testifies during a Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee confirmation hearing in Dirksen Building on Tuesday, July 13, 2021.
Catherine Lhamon, then-nominee to be assistant secretary for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Education, testifies during a Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee confirmation hearing in July.
Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images
Federal White House Outlines COVID-19 Vaccination Plans for Kids 5-11
The Biden administration will rely on schools, pharmacies, and pediatricians to help deliver the COVID-19 shots to younger children.
3 min read
Ticket number 937 sits on a COVID-19 vaccination at the drive-thru vaccination site in the Coweta County Fairgrounds on Jan. 14, 2021, in Newnan, Ga.
A ticket number sits on a COVID-19 vaccination at the drive-thru vaccination site in the Coweta County Fairgrounds in Newnan, Ga.
Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP