CINCINNATI (CN) – A 6th Circuit panel voted 2-1 to strike down portions of the No Child Left Behind Act, ruling that the Act fails to clearly establish who pays for the increased costs of states’ compliance with requirements not paid for by the federal government.
School districts and education associations challenged the “unfunded mandates provision” of the Act, which provides that “nothing in this Act shall be construed to … mandate a state or any subdivision thereof to spend any funds or incur any costs not paid for under this Act.”
Plaintiffs filed suit against the Secretary of Education, seeking a declaration that they need not comply with requirements that are not adequately funded.
The district court disagreed and said plaintiffs had to comply, despite funding shortfalls.
Law enacted under the spending clause must “provide clear notice to the states of their liabilities should they decide to accept federal funding under those statutes,” the ruling states.
The court concluded that “plaintiffs’ liability in this respect is anything but clear.” Reversed and remanded.
Judge McKeague dissented, saying the majority avoided plaintiffs’ principal argument by “creating ambiguity where none exists.” See ruling.