Leaving Connecticut Behind
As if we needed another frivolous lawsuit, yesterday Connecticut became the first state to sue the feds over funding for No Child Left Behind. That education reform, which passed with bipartisan majorities in 2001, provided the largest increase in education spending in the nation's history. But never mind. According to state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who filed the suit, it's an "unfunded mandate."
In fact, the money complaint is a red herring used by Mr. Blumenthal, Republican Governor M. Jodi Rell and others to avoid the real issues of accountability and transparency. In return for federal funds, No Child Left Behind requires states to develop academic standards and curriculum-based tests to measure whether students are meeting those standards. The law's requirements were nothing new; they existed under NCLB's predecessor, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The only difference is that the Bush administration, backed by Democrats in Congress, decided to actually enforce them.
Connecticut wants to go back to the days when it could receive federal aid without complying with the law. No Child Left Behind says states must test children annually in grades three through eight, and then disaggregate the data so that parents can discover if a school is educating all students. No more gimmicks like reporting "average" test scores to hide achievement gaps among racial groups. Connecticut only wants to test in grades four, six and eight.
U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spelling deserves credit for not giving into Connecticut and the accountability-averse National Education Association, the teachers union that has been pushing for the lawsuit. Other states have pleaded for "flexibility" (read: exceptions) but she's mostly held her ground. The Bush administration decided correctly that Connecticut was asking too much. If the state wins this suit, students lose.
Wall Street Journal
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