NEA Urges Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals
to allow litigation to move forward
WASHINGTON—The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit today heard oral argument by the National Education Association and its co-plaintiffs in the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) lawsuit, Pontiac v. Spellings. NEA is appealing a November 2005 decision by a lower court dismissing its claim that the federal government is violating the “unfunded mandates” provision of NCLB.
“I am pleased with the oral argument presented by our lead counsel to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday morning,” said NEA President Reg Weaver. “While it’s not prudent to speculate about which way the court may rule, we are hopeful that it will allow this important case to advance. We look forward to the court’s decision sometime next year.”
NEA, nine NEA affiliates and nine school districts filed an unprecedented lawsuit on April 20, 2005, claiming that the federal government is violating the “unfunded mandates” provision of NCLB by compelling states and school districts to spend their own money to comply with the requirements of the law. The provision in question—Sec. 9527(a)—states:
“Nothing in this Act [i.e. the NCLB] shall be construed to authorize an officer or employee of the Federal government to…mandate a State or any subdivision thereof to spend any funds or incur any costs not paid for under this Act.”
This is the first lawsuit in the country seeking to prevent NCLB from imposing “unfunded mandates” on states and school districts. Six states, the District of Columbia, the governor of Pennsylvania, school administrators and state and local elected officials are now formally supporting NEA's legal challenge. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan dismissed the case last year, holding that Congress did not promise to pay for all of the additional costs imposed by NCLB. Rather, Section 9527(a) merely prohibits “federal officers and employees” from imposing any additional costs beyond those required by the Act, the court ruled. A decision by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals is expected sometime next year.
Since it was first enacted in 2001, federal funding for NCLB programs has fallen $40 billion short of the amount originally promised by Congress. In this school year, moreover, Congress provided $1 billion less for NCLB programs than it provided last year, and the House and Senate are proposing cuts of $494 million and $377 million, respectively, in FY2007.
“Adequate funding for education programs under No Child Left Behind is a critical component for great public schools for every child,” said Weaver. “Unfortunately, Congress continues to shortchange parents and schools in many communities across the nation. Allowing this litigation to move forward is a step in the right direction in the ongoing battle over determining who is obligated to pay for costly unfunded mandates.”
For additional information about the NEA lawsuit, please visit: www.nea.org/lawsuit .