ERIC Number: EJ796149
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008
Reference Count: N/A
Accountability Left Behind
Testani, Rocco E.; Mayes, Joshua A.
Education Next, v8 n3 p43-45 Sum 2008
This article describes the reversal of the dismissal of an "unfunded-mandates" challenge to the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) brought by the National Education Association (NEA), several of its affiliates, and a number of school districts by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The decision in "School District of the City of Pontiac v. Secretary of the United States Department of Education" has the potential to significantly undermine NCLB's focus on accountability and student achievement. To understand the ruling of the Court of Appeals, it is necessary to know a little about the spending clause of the United States Constitution. The spending clause gives Congress the power to spend tax money in ways that it sees fit. Congress often uses that power to encourage states to adopt congressional policies by promising to send the states federal funding if they oblige. In many ways, laws passed pursuant to the spending clause are like contracts between the federal government and the states. There is a wrinkle, however; the Supreme Court has held that any law imposing conditions on the receipt of federal money pursuant to the spending clause must describe the conditions "unambiguously" to provide "clear notice" to recipients. NCLB is a good example of a law passed pursuant to the spending clause. No state is required to follow NCLB--unless, that is, it wants to receive federal money for its education system. For states choosing to accept federal funding, NCLB requires that they implement a number of education policies Congress can eliminate the basis of the Court of Appeals decision by deleting or revising the unfunded mandates provision if and when it decides to reauthorize NCLB. Eliminating or modifying the unfunded mandates provision may prove difficult politically, however, and the decision of the Court of Appeals may add considerable complexity to the reauthorization process. For the moment, though, the plaintiffs have won the first round in their efforts to shed NCLB's accountability requirements while, at the same time, retaining NCLB funding.
Descriptors: Federal Legislation, Federal Government, Politics of Education, Accountability, School Districts, Financial Support, High Stakes Tests, Court Litigation
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: United States
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: No Child Left Behind Act 2001