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Connecticut Becomes First State to Sue U.S. Over No Child Left Behind Law

The suit alleges the law is unconstitutional because it requires standardized tests and other school programs that the government does not supply enough money to pay for, creating a so-called unfunded mandate. The lawsuit asks a federal judge to not require state and local money to go toward meeting the law’s goals, the Associated Press reported.

“No matter how good its goals the federal government is not above the law,” said Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, in a statement. “The federal government has failed in implementing them. Unfunded mandates are all too common; these specific unfunded mandates are unlawful.”

No Child Left Behind, President Bush’s initiative, became law in 2002 with the support of both Democrats and Republicans. NCLB directs states to create standards on what students should know and to test their progress toward those goals in grades three through eight.

In April, the nation’s largest teachers union, the National Education Association, along with school districts in Michigan, Texas and Vermont, also filed suit against the law, arguing, much like Connecticut, that the government had not supplied adequate funding.

Susan Aspey, a spokeswoman for U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, contended that the money is available.

“Unfortunately, this lawsuit sends the wrong message to students, educators and parents,” Aspey said, according to the AP. “The funds have been provided for testing, but Connecticut apparently wants to keep those funds without using them as intended.”

Spellings has repeatedly denied requests from Connecticut for more flexibility.

Connecticut Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who for months urged the state to settle its differences through negotiation, recently joined the teachers, superintendents, lawmakers and parents voicing support for the lawsuit.

“We in Connecticut do a lot of testing already, far more than most other states,” Rell said. “Our taxpayers are sagging under the crushing costs of local education. What we don’t need is a new laundry list of things to do — with no new money to do them.”

The federal government is providing Connecticut with $5.8 million this fiscal year to pay for the testing, said Connecticut Education Commissioner Betty Sternberg. She estimates federal funds will fall $41.6 million short of paying for costs associated with carrying out the law through 2008.

The state intended to comply with the law while the court decided the merits of the case, she added.

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