Monday, August 22, 2005

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The state of Connecticut filed a federal lawsuit yesterday challenging President Bush’s No Child Left Behind school-reform law, arguing that it is illegal because it requires expensive testing and programs for which it doesn’t pay.

The lawsuit, which officials said was the first of its kind to be brought by a state government, asks a federal judge to declare that the federal government cannot require state and local money be used to meet federal testing goals.

“The goals of the No Child Left Behind Act are laudable,” Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said. “Indeed, Connecticut has pursued these goals for decades, but the federal government has failed in implementing them.”

Mr. Blumenthal announced plans for the lawsuit this spring, after the state was repeatedly denied waivers to avoid some of the requirements of No Child Left Behind, which aims to have every student in public schools proficient in reading and mathematics by 2014.

Connecticut’s chief complaint with the law has been over testing. The state, which has been administering its own mastery test for 20 years, wants to continue testing every other year. The federal law requires annual testing, and federal education officials have repeatedly denied the state’s requests for leniency.

“This mindless rigidity harms our taxpayers, but most of all our children,” Mr. Blumenthal said.

Standardized testing in grades three, five and seven is scheduled to begin this school year.

A recent report projects that the state will be $41.6 million short in paying for the law’s requirements through 2008, but federal officials question that estimate. A state law prohibits state money from being used to pay for the law’s requirements.

In Utah, the Legislature passed a measure defying the federal law, and it was signed by Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. on May 2. The law gives state educational standards priority over the requirements of No Child Left Behind.

The nation’s largest teachers union, the National Education Association, joined with school districts and union chapters across the country to file a lawsuit this year challenging the law. Connecticut’s union chapter is part of that lawsuit.

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