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Spellings to Appeal 6th Circuit's NCLB Ruling

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced today that the Bush administration will appeal a court ruling that revived a lawsuit which contends the No Child Left Behind Act is an unfunded federal mandate.

Spellings said that U.S. Solicitor General Paul D. Clement, who is the top appellate lawyer in the Department of Justice, has authorized an appeal asking that the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, in Cincinnati, rehear the case of Pontiac School District v. Spellings.

A panel of the 6th Circuit court ruled 2-1 on Jan. 7 that the states were not on clear notice of their potential financial obligations when they agreed to accept federal funding under the No Child Left Behind law. The majority ruled that state and local officials could “reasonably read” the law’s unfunded-mandate provision to conclude the federal government would pay for all costs associated with complying with the law.

I wrote about the ruling in Education Week here, and my colleague David Hoff and I wrote here about a letter Spellings wrote to chief state school officers that was critical of the ruling.

In her statement today, Spellings said the administration's appeal to the full 6th Circuit "will be filed shortly."

"As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I strongly disagree with the ruling, and believe that if the decision were to stand, it could undermine efforts to improve the education of our nation’s children, in particular those students most in need," Spellings said in the statement. "NCLB is not an unfunded mandate. It is a voluntary compact between the states and the federal government, which asks that in exchange for federal tax dollars, results be demonstrated. This investment is netting solid results and creating an opportunity for every child in America to have access to a quality education."

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