Academic journal article Albany Law Review

How Far Is Too Far? the Spending Clause, the Tenth Amendment, and the Education State's Battle against Unfunded Mandates

Academic journal article Albany Law Review

How Far Is Too Far? the Spending Clause, the Tenth Amendment, and the Education State's Battle against Unfunded Mandates

Article excerpt

On January 8, 2002, President Bush's sweeping education reform act, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), was adopted by Congress with the stated purpose of "[c]losing the achievement gap" between economically and racially advantaged and disadvantaged school children. (1) The law requires states to administer yearly math and reading tests to students beginning in the third grade (2) and to ensure a 100% passage rate within twelve years. (3) The law further imposes severe consequences for schools that do not meet adequate yearly progress. (4)

Although NCLB has been praised for the national focus it has brought to many of America's failing school systems, since its enactment the law has seen opposition both from legislators (5) and school districts that have filed suit alleging various violations. (6) However, on August 22, 2005, Connecticut became the first and only state in the country to file suit against the federal government over NCLB. (7) In its complaint, Connecticut alleged that the federal government violated the unfunded mandates prohibition of NCLB by requiring Connecticut and its school districts to comply fully with the Department of Education's strict interpretation of the law without providing the adequate funds. (8) In addition, Connecticut argues that by threatening to cut the $435,946,380 the State receives in federal funds for education every year, (9) the government is violating the United States Constitution's Spending Clause (10) by coercing the State into administering an educational policy which the federal government has no constitutional authority to compel a state to implement. (11) The State of Connecticut argues that in order to meet the requirements of NCLB, the State would have to lower the standards of its Mastery Test, which it has been using for over two decades, and revamp its entire assessment program--a program that has consistently placed Connecticut's student scores among the highest in the nation. (12) The State has asked Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings for waivers in order to continue testing its students every other year. (13) Despite her authority to waive any requirement under the statute, Spellings has routinely denied Connecticut's requests. (14) After failing to reach a compromise, the State had no choice but to file suit. (15)

This Article analyzes the State of Connecticut's decision to bring an action against the United States government for the unfunded mandates associated with NCLB. Part I illustrates the realities of the achievement gap in the State of Connecticut and highlights the State's successes with the implementation of its own testing scheme, in effect for over two decades. Part II focuses on what NCLB requires, the unfunded mandates portion of the State's claim, and why Connecticut refuses to give up its own method of testing in order to lower the costs associated with the education policies of the state to comply with the law. Finally, Part III discusses the issue of federalism and how Connecticut claims that the federal government, through economic coercion, is violating Article I of the Constitution and the Tenth Amendment.

I. THE REALTIES OF THE ACHIEVEMENT GAP IN THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

For the past twenty years, Connecticut has implemented its own assessment and accountability program that has helped to consistently rank its students among the highest achieving in the country. (16) The Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT), one of the "most rigorous in the nation," uses a variety of written explanations, essays, and multiple choice questions to test cognitive skills of students throughout the state. (17) The test takes place over a three to four week period, (18) measures the mathematics, reading, and writing skills of students in grades four, six, eight, and ten, and has helped identify those students performing below proficiency. (19) In response to those test results, the State has funneled resources into new preschools, early reading, and after-school programs, all in an attempt to help the lowest performing students. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.