Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Connecticut Joins Earlier Lawsuits Filed Against Bush Administration Over No Child Left Behind; Other States May Follow

Connecticut sued the U.S. government over the No Child Left Behind education financing law, saying the measure is illegal because it requires more than $40 million in programs without paying for them.

The first-of-its-kind suit was filed by Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, with the backing of Gov. M. Jodi Rell, a Republican. It follows and expands upon a lawsuit filed in April by the National Education Association on behalf of 10 state unions, including Connecticut, as well as school districts in Texas, Michigan and Vermont.

The Connecticut suit argues that the state is not being adequately reimbursed for the cost of expanding to annual testing from its current schedule of every other year. Officials said that the 2001 law -- a hallmark of the Bush Administration's domestic agenda -- would force Connecticut to spend more than $40 million of its own money in coming years, even though the law specifically bars the federal government from imposing mandates without financing them.

"No matter how good its goals the federal government is not above the law,'' Blumenthal said in an Aug. 22 press statement. "The federal government has failed in implementing them. Unfunded mandates are all too common; these specific unfunded mandates are unlawful.''

The federal government is providing Connecticut with $5.8 million this fiscal year to pay for the testing, Connecticut Education Commissioner Betty Sternberg told the Washington Post. However, she estimates federal funds will fall $41.6 million short of paying for staffing, program development, standardized tests and other costs associated with implementing the law through 2008.

***

Connecticut is not the first state to object to the law. Utah passed a measure defying the law, signed by Gov. Jon Huntsman on May 2. Texas' legislature passed a similar measure.

Reacting to Connecticut's suit, Maine officials told the New York Times that they are mulling their own lawsuit, while the Post reports that other states could vote to join the lawsuit.

Blumenthal said other states were reluctant 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 fear of retaliation by the Bush administration had also made some states reluctant.

***

The federal Department of Education called the lawsuit "unfortunate" and disputed Connecticut's assertion that Washington has not provided the money to carry out the law's testing requirements, which it defended as reasonable.

"Unfortunately, this lawsuit sends the wrong message to students, educators and parents," said Susan Aspey, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Education, while failing to address any specific claims made in the suit.

***

The Connecticut suit argues that Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings has aggravated the harm to Connecticut by denying state requests for flexibility in complying with the law, including one to continue the state's alternate-year testing program.

Connecticut tests students in grades four, six and eight. Under No Child Left Behind, the state is required starting this school to testing children in grades three, five and seven as well. State education officials say they already know minority and poor children don't perform as well as their wealthy, white peers, and additional tests aren't going to tell them more.

"We in Connecticut do a lot of testing already, far more than most other states. Our taxpayers are sagging under the crushing costs of local education," Rell said in the press statement. She had earlier sought negotiations between the state and the federal government. "What we don't need is a new laundry list of things to do -- with no new money to do them."

4 Comments:

Blogger halcyon67 said...

About time. I saw something about this on CNN (the liberal media, :) ). Maybe people can actually see through the doublespeak on this one and have finally realized that this does not work. Paige's "Houston Miracle" was exposed to, but you won't hear that in the so-called liberal media.

Good blog. I will check back soon.

10:05 AM  
Blogger halcyon67 said...

Oh yea, did you see Bush's budget for next year? I know it is old, but the programs cut were mostly educational.

10:06 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

I guess I am the voice of positivity now, but I have to point out that even though the average working person's school taxes will soar thanks to Bush's unfunded mandates, the Washington Post quotes Keith Ashdown, vice president of policy at Taxpayers for Common Sense as saying:

"[Bush's energy bill] created a complicated scheme of making sure a lot of different profitable energy industries are going to make off like bandits."

AP called it: "a mammoth energy plan for the nation [...] that sends billions of dollars in tax breaks and subsidies to energy companies, but is expected to do little to reduce U.S. oil consumption or dampen high energy prices."

So let's look on the bright side, folks! Thanks to the Republicans shifting the tax burden off their oil and gas buddies, there will likely be many more millionaires!

11:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The wheels on the bus are falling off, falling off ...

12:53 PM  

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