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Inside the Law

No Lawsuit Left Behind

On the same day President Bush marked the sixth anniversary of the federal No Child Left Behind law by visiting a Chicago elementary school and proclaiming, "I know NCLB has worked," a federal appeals court ruled in favor of a group of school districts that had filed a lawsuit against the education act in 2005.

The 2-to-1 ruling from the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati, says school districts are justified in complaining that the law requires them to pay for testing and other programs without providing sufficient federal funds. The new ruling sends the suit back to the lower court, where the plaintiffs' claims were originally dismissed.

Secretary of Ed Margaret Spellings likened the decision to "undermining the efforts made under NCLB to improve the education of our nation's children" in a letter sent to all chief state school officers.

Spellings has filed a petition for a rehearing of the case, and says NCLB "is not an unfunded mandate but asks the state and its school districts, in exchange for receiving substantial federal dollars, to demonstrate results."

The plaintiff s-school districts in Michigan, Texas and Vermont joined with the National Education Association insist the DOE has violated the U.S. Constitution in enacting a law that requires states and districts to spend local money to meet federal requirements.

"Because we conclude that NCLB fails to provide clear notice as to who bears the additional costs of compliance, we reverse the judgment of the district court," the federal ruling says.


Tougher Penalties for Abusive Teachers

At a time when cases of sexual misconduct are running rampant, lawmakers in at least 15 states are working to provide stronger oversight and tougher punishment for educators who take advantage of their students.

Governors, superintendents and legislative leaders are supporting laws that would include eliminating statutes of limitation for sexual misconduct, allowing victims to come forward with charges against abusers regardless of the number of years since the crime.

According to The Boston Globe, N.Y. governor Eliot Spitzer supports automatic suspension of sex offender teachers, and Maine governor John Baldacci wants to share the names of abusive teachers with other states, which a 1913 confidentiality law currently prohibits.


State of the Union: Bush on Education

President Bush delivered his last State of the Union address in January, and made calls both to strengthen the No Child Left Behind law and provide more opportunities to struggling students in low-income areas through grants and outreach initiatives.

"We must do more to help children when their schools do not measure up," he said. "Thanks to the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, more than 2,600 of the poorest children in our nation's capital have found hope in a faith-based or other nonpublic school, but these schools are disappearing in America's inner cities. I will convene a White House summit aimed at strengthening these lifelines of learning."

To improve "the good law," President Bush urged Congress to increase accountability but to add flexibility for states and districts and reduce the number of high school dropouts.

The American Association of School Administrators expressed qualms over the president's plans in a statement:

"Instead of rushing to renew a broken law with fatal flaws, we need to first engage in a thoughtful debate about what is best for our nation's children. The success of public schools is due to state and local actions, not NCLB."