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'No Child' Lawsuit is Most Welcome

Connecticut Post

Connecticut may make history by becoming the first state in the nation to legally challenge the unfunded mandates of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

It's a legal action that's overdue and we encourage state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal to follow through with plans to file suit against the U.S. Department of Education.

Conceptually, the three-year-old federal law possesses good intentions in attempting to make students in public schools proficient in math and reading by the end of the 2013-14 school year.

However, like much legislation that emanates from Washington, NCLB is a classic case of a poorly funded mandate. It does not provide states and their communities sufficient resources to meet the dictates of the punitive law.

Furthermore, the federal Education Department's application of the law has simply been inflexible and bad public policy.

The agency in no uncertain terms recently slammed the door in the face of Connecticut officials as they sought to waive required testing in grades three, five and seven because the state already does mastery testing in grades four, six and eight.

The end result: Hundreds of millions of dollars in extra costs for Connecticut and its towns and cities because of insufficient federal funding.

And what benefits are to be gained by testing students annually from grades three through eight, except to keep paperwork flowing for a federal bureaucracy? It's pointless. The tests will come around before remedial plans for failing students are even in place. Connecticut has maintained a rigorous mastery testing program in its schools for the past 20 years, long before NCLB was even a gleam in the eyes of bureaucrats and politicians. The state stands as a national leader in education reform.

State education officials estimate it will cost $8 million more than available federal funding simply to develop all the tests by 2008. In addition, a recent state analysis estimates that federal aid for Connecticut will fall more than $40 million short by then for resources communities will need to comply with the federal law.

For example, Bridgeport Acting Schools Supt. Clarence Tolbert estimates it will cost Bridgeport $25 million more than it will receive in federal and state aid to comply with the law's mandates by 2008.

Blumenthal is to be commended for planning this legal action. Hopefully, other states that face similar problems — and there are quite a few — will join the lawsuit and take on the inflexible Washington bureaucracy.
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