Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Greetings, Blogees! I guess that's the right term. If I am the "blogger" I guess you readers are the "blogees." Whatever the term, we here at TSALD decided it was time to enter the blogosphere. So from now on, you can expect regular posts here from the Dawg. We look forward to your responses!

We'll start off with this: BIG NEWS RE: NCLB.

The 6th Circuit has reinstated the lawsuit filed by NEA, TSTA and a variety of school districts (including Laredo ISD) challenging the funding of NCLB. The suit is based on a single sentence in NCLB which says that nothing in the law should be construed to "mandate a state or any subdivision thereof to spend any funds or incur any costs not paid for under this Act."

This sentence is there for political reasons. It enables politicians to claim that NCLB is neither an unfunded nor an underfunded mandate--everything we require you to do we pay for. If we don't pay for it, you don't have to do it. Senator Gregg (N.H.) said as much as he sponsored the amendment that included this language. He said that the purpose was "to assure that this bill will not become an unfunded make it clear that if the Federal Government tells the State to do something or tells the local community to do something, the Federal Government will have to pay for the costs of that mandate."

That's a very reasonable interpretation of the section of the statute in question. It's hard to see how else you could read it. In fact, Rod Paige, former HISD Superintendent and former Secretary of Education, confirmed this. He said "if it's not funded, it's not required. There is language in the bill that prohibits requiring anything that is not paid for."

But the current Secretary of Education is attempting to distance herself from her predecessor's remarks, calling then "stray comments." The Bush Department of Education argues that the statute merely prohibits some rogue federal bureaucrat from imposing additional requirements on the locals, beyond what the statute calls for.

That's a crock. Rogue federal bureaucrats can't impose requirements that are not authorized by statute in the first place--you don't need a section of the law to say that.

The Bush Administration is trying to convince the court that the statute does not mean what it says. Two of the three members of the 6th Circuit panel didn't buy it. They say that Congress has to be very clear about what it requires of states. If it is not willing to pay for the full costs of compliance with its requirements, it has to say so. The feds cannot have it both ways. Congress cannot claim that they are paying for everything they require, and then have the Department of Education argue that "we didn't really mean that."

This case has a long way to go. This preliminary ruling may go to the Supreme Court, and there is no telling what the Big Nine will do with it. If the case does end up in a full blown trial, it will be very difficult to sort out exactly what are the costs of compliance with NCLB. But at a minimum, we can report that we are starting the new year with a very interesting decision with large scale implications for the funding of public education.

Stay tuned. It's going to be interesting.