State Sued Too Soon Over ‘No Child Left Behind Act’

     (CN) – Connecticut’s objections to the so-called “unfunded mandates provision” of the No Child Left Behind Act should first be addressed on the administrative level rather than in the courts, the 2nd Circuit ruled, rejecting the state’s lawsuit as premature.

     The three-judge panel in New York upheld a judge’s dismissal of the state’s lawsuit against Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Judge Barrington Parker ruled that the case would “benefit from a more developed administrative record and that [it] … is not yet fit for review.”
     The state had challenged a provision barring the federal government from imposing “unfunded mandates” on states, meaning the government can’t force states to spend their own money to comply with the federal law.
     Connecticut argued that the provision was a catch-22, because the potential loss of federal grant money effectively coerced states into spending their own money and thus violating the provision.
     It sued for constitutional violations, and claimed the secretary violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) by denying its request for waivers from several of the Act’s requirements.
     Ruling for Duncan, a federal judge pointed out that the state failed to take up these arguments with the secretary when it requested the proposed waivers and plan amendments.
The three-judge appellate panel agreed that the state had jumped the gun with litigation.
     “[T]he District Court did not err in concluding it would benefit from a more developed administrative record and that therefore this case is not yet fit for review,” Judge Barrington Parker wrote.
     “As a result of the State’s requested plan amendments and waivers, we know how the State proposes to bridge any gap between its Title I (federal grant) funds and its costs of complying with the NCLBA. But we do not yet have a clear picture of solutions the Secretary might propose, or, for obvious reasons, the State’s position on any such solutions.”

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