- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 23, 2006

Two national groups promoting education reform have filed complaints against two California public-school systems, charging that they are violating federal law by not telling parents of children in failing schools about transfer options.

The joint complaints of the Alliance for School Choice and the Coalition on Urban Renewal and Education were filed yesterday against the Los Angeles Unified School District — California’s largest — and the Compton Unified School District. Several families with children in failing schools in those districts joined in the complaints.

The groups say the districts are not complying with terms of the No Child Left Behind Act in that they are forcing many students to remain in low-performing schools for years and are not notifying parents that the federal law gives them the right to transfer their children to better-performing public schools.

Noting that the law calls for a cutoff of federal Title 1 education funds for school districts that do not provide students the opportunity to attend effective alternative schools, the organizations sent correspondence to U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings Wednesday, asking that she impose sanctions for noncompliance on both districts.

“The only possible sanction would be a cutoff of Title 1 funds, and that would be a very significant sanction,” said Clint Bolick, president and general counsel of the Alliance for School Choice.

The groups concede that the problems that the students and parents are facing in the Los Angeles and Compton school systems are “the tip of a national iceberg.”

Mr. Bolick cited a 2004 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that found that more than 3 million children nationwide were eligible for public-school transfers under education law. But the report found that only about 30,000 students, or 1 percent, were transferred, he said. The law states that children are eligible for transfer to better schools after being in a failing school for two years.

What’s more, Mr. Bolick said, the GAO report found that more than 1,000 schools nationwide “have failed for at least six years.” Failure is measured by a school’s inability to meet the academic standards of the state it is in.

Repeated attempts yesterday to reach Los Angeles and Compton school officials for comment were unsuccessful.

The Alliance for School Choice acknowledges, “In virtually every large urban school district, the number of children eligible for transfers to better-performing public schools exceeds the seats available in such schools.”

“As a consequence, even though lack of capacity is no defense, many school districts evade their obligations, thus far with no consequences,” as sanctions for noncompliance with the transfer provisions of the No Child Left Behind law “go unused,” the group added.

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