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NEA Lawsuit Shows Mixed-Up Politics of NCLB

I've written before (here, here, and here) about the unique political alliances the NCLB creates and contradictory stances the actors in the game sometimes take. Last week's circuit court ruling reminded me of another.

In the case, the National Education Association is claiming that the U.S. Department of Education is violating NCLB's unfunded mandate clause, which says districts shouldn't be forced to spend their own money to comply with the law's rules. Although the case isn't over, NEA's top lawyer says last week's decision is a major victory. “Hundreds of school districts and all of the states now know that at least one court of appeals has said to them, ‘You are right; you don’t have to do anything you are not getting the money to do,’ ’’ Robert H. Chanin, the NEA's general counsel, told my colleague, Mark Walsh, for a story in the this week's Education Week.

Here's the irony: When the unfunded mandate language was inserted into federal law back in 1994, Republicans sponsored it. They're the ones who argued that districts and states shouldn't be required to spend their own money on federal priorities. Fourteen years later, a union usually aligned with Democrats is using that Republican-backed clause as the basis for its case against a Republican administration's secretary of education.

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