Monday, August 22, 2005

"Arbitrary, rigid, and capricious"

Ouch. Those were the words of the Connecticut AG in the case filed against the Department of Education over funding of NCLB, according to the NY Times.

So far, Connecticut is going it alone (there is at least one other major lawsuit in the works, but it is filed on behalf of districts by the NEA and local affiliates). There's a reason for it:

Connecticut's attorney general, Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, had sought, without success, to persuade other states to join his suit, although Maine officials said today that they were seriously considering their own lawsuit.

Mr. Blumenthal said that other states were reluctant to join his effort because they had not yet done the studies that could prove that the federal law had caused them to spend state money on federal mandates. He said that "fear of retaliation by the Bush administration" had also made some states reluctant.

Of course, Bush Administration apologists will deny it, but the administration has a reputation for this kind of thing. Still, NCLB has become so onerous and damaging to state budgets that I'll bet that other states will join in or file their own suits. Of course, if Connecticut wins, the floodgates would open. That's why the case will be so important.

I think they've got a good case:

Connecticut's legal argument is based on a passage in the law that was first put forth by Republicans during the Clinton administration and that forbids Washington to require states to spend their own funds to put federal policies into effect.

A case of the chickens coming home to roost, perhaps?

... In an interview, [Connecticut Attorney General Richard] Blumenthal said that Connecticut's suit was "not a blunderbuss attack" on the law but rather "a targeted challenge to unfunded mandates."

Remember, this isn't about what you or a judge thinks about the merits of the law or testing or the achievement gap or anything else. This is about the law. And the law says that the feds must fund federal programs. They're clearly not doing that right now.

Connecticut's got a pretty good case. We'll see if the judge agrees.

Update: Tomorrow's edition of the NYT is already online. A couple of interesting tidbits:

Gov. M. Jodi Rell, a Republican, expressed support for the suit.

"We in Connecticut do a lot of testing already, far more than most other states," she said. "Our taxpayers are sagging under the crushing costs of local education. What we don't need is a new laundry list of things to do - with no new money to do them."

This again highlights the often bipartisan nature of the opposition to NCLB. Also:

Legal scholars said that previous lawsuits by other states against the federal government over so-called unfunded mandates have had mixed success. But David B. Cruz, a professor at the University of Southern California's law school, called Connecticut's suit "legally very strong" because of the law's explicit language prohibiting unfunded mandates.


Blogger California Yankee said...

This is about more than the money. Connecticut's NCLBA lawsuit was criticized a number activists who said Connecticut has failed in its obligation to narrow the gap between the performance of white students versus minority students.

In eighth grade math, only 17 percent of Connecticut's white students scored in the lowest category of achievement compared to more than half of black and Latino students, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

6:56 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Listed on BlogShares