Presently, the No Child Left Behind Act is due for reauthorization by Congress. As of this newsletter going to print, Congress has not yet reauthorized it, and many observers have speculated that no action will be taken one way or the other until after the November election. Nevertheless, a recent federal court decision ensures that the Act will remain in the headlines for the near future.
On January 7, 2008, a three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a district court’s dismissal of a Complaint brought against the Department of Education arising out of the No Child Left Behind Act. The case, captioned as School District of the City of Pontiac v. Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, was brought by several large school districts in three states and the teachers’ unions from nine states and alleges that the NCLB Act constitutes an unlawful unfunded mandate. The plaintiffs clamed that they should not be obligated to pay for any additional costs required to satisfy the requirements of NCLB. By a 2-1 vote, the Sixth Circuit panel reversed the lower court and will allow the suit to proceed on the grounds that NCLB may not provide clear notice to states who accepted the federal funds and liabilities provided by NCLB that they would bear additional costs to comply with the statute. The Department of Education has indicated it will seek rehearing by the full Sixth Circuit. We will update the progress of this suit in future editions of Education News.