- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The National Education Association and nine school districts in three states yesterday asked a federal court in Michigan to invalidate the No Child Left Behind Act unless Congress doubles funding to implement the 2002 law.

In a federal lawsuit filed in Detroit, the school union said Congress should increase yearly spending to $28 billion, more than double the administration’s 2006 request for state grants under No Child Left Behind.

“The principle of the law is simple: If you regulate, you have to pay,” said Reg Weaver, president of the 2.7-million-member NEA.

Critics say the federal law adds expenses for state and local school systems without providing federal dollars to cover the costs.

“Today, we’re standing up for children, whose parents are saying ?no more’ to costly federal regulations that drain money from classrooms and spend it on paperwork, bureaucracy and big testing companies,” Mr. Weaver said.

The Pontiac, Mich., school district is lead plaintiff in the 60-page lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for Eastern Michigan. The Laredo, Texas, school district and six from Vermont were joined as plaintiffs by the NEA, which is paying for the legal challenge. Eleven state and local NEA affiliates also are contributing to fund the lawsuit.

The defendant is Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, whose spokeswoman called the lawsuit “regrettable.”

“President Bush and Congress have provided historic funding increases for education, and yet we continue to hear the same weak arguments from the NEA,” said Education Department press secretary Susan Aspey.

Yearly congressional appropriations for No Child Left Behind have increased from $10.4 billion in 2002 to $12.7 billion this year. President Bush has requested $13.3 billion for 2006.

“Four separate studies assert the law is appropriately funded and not a mandate,” Miss Aspey said.

One of the studies conducted for Congress by the Government Accountability Office concluded that No Child Left Behind is not a mandate and that states may opt out of the law’s requirements if they are willing to forgo the federal funds.

State grants average $245 million for low-income school districts under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The state grants range from Wyoming’s low of $27 million to a high of $1.6 billion, the yearly amount received by California.

Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., a Republican, is expected to sign state legislation passed Tuesday that is the biggest challenge to date of the federal law. The bill’s sponsors emphasized that the measure does not exempt Utah from the federal law’s accountability provisions for student reading and math achievement from year to year.

Utah lawmakers said the bill was crafted so the state would not lose its annual $76 million Title 1 grants. Utah officials object to a federal requirement that schools make “adequate yearly progress” based upon student scores of yearly reading and math standardized tests. The state wants to use its own “growth model” to measure student progress.

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