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Full 6th Circuit to Weigh NCLB Case

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The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, in Cincinnati, hears arguments Wednesday in a major legal challenge to the No Child Left Behind Act.

The court will consider a lawsuit backed by the National Education Association that argues the federal education law imposes unfunded mandates on states and school districts in conflict with its own language.

A three-judge 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 officials could “reasonably read” the law’s unfunded-mandate provision to conclude that they “need not comply with NCLB requirements for which federal funding falls short.”

But the full 6th Circuit set aside that ruling on May 1 when it agreed to the Bush administration's request to rehear the case. (I blogged about that development here and wrote about it in Education Week here.)

I'll be in Cincinnati to cover the arguments, and I'll file a report here in the blog and on Education Week's Web site.

Incidentally, The Washington Post has a package of stories today about President-elect Barack Obama's opportunities to put his stamp on the federal judiciary, and this story focuses on the 6th Circuit's tendency to rehear "en banc" certain cases when they were originally decided by panels made up of or dominated by judges who were appointed by Democratic presidents.

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The judiciary will take some time to change, as Bush had eight years of appointing his nominees. We will see how this plays out through the adopting of laws.

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