It's been a banner week for teachers' unions in the federal courts. On Monday, the National Education Association won a big federal appeals court ruling reviving its legal challenge to the No Child Left Behind Act. Now, the Utah Education Association, an NEA affiliate, has won a ruling that says a state law barring state and local public employers from withholding workers' voluntary political contributions violates the First Amendment. The UEA was joined by several other state public-employee unions in its challenge to the law. In the case of teachers, those voluntary contributions are typically designated for teachers' union political ...


This grant opportunity caught my eye: "The Courts and K-12 Education" is the inaugural theme for a new grant program for scholars by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. The Fordham Scholars grant program will aim to assist advanced doctoral students and junior faculty members in such areas as economics, law, and political science. The announcement says "successful projects in this year's round will examine how the courts (state, federal, etc.) may affect the ability of educators, policymakers, and entrepreneurs to foster stronger pupil achievement; greater choices for families; more efficient school operations; promising innovations in curriculum, instruction, school organization and, ...


A federal judge has ruled that a rural Missouri school district's longstanding practice of allowing Gideon Bibles to be distributed to students is unconstitutional, the Associated Press reports. The judge's opinion says that both the South Iron R-1 school district's earlier policy allowing classroom Bible distribution and an amended policy allowing the distribution before and after school and during lunch breaks violates the First Amendment's prohibition against government establishment of religion....


In a case being watched by education groups, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments today on whether certain disparities in Kentucky's public-employee retirement system violate a federal age-discrimination law. By the end of the hourlong argument, it seemed clear that a majority of the justices disagreed with the position of the Bush administration, through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, that Kentucky's system violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. The case arose because of the different ways the retirement system handles workers who retire for disability reasons and those who retire because they have served the ...


A case to be argued in the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday over state and local-governmental early-retirement programs has drawn the interest of education groups. In Kentucky Retirement Systems v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the justices are essentially weighing whether it is OK for age to be a factor in an early-retirement system. That may sound like it borders on the absurd, but at issue is whether Kentucky violates the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act by its disparate treatment of workers seeking disability retirement versus those seeking early retirement based on years of service. The National School Boards ...


The Associated Press is reporting that a company and a school district's test of putting electronic-tracking chips in students' backpacks is raising the hackles of the American Civil Liberties Union. According to the AP, the pilot test in the Middletown, R.I., district would put the so-called radio frequency identification (RFID) chips in or on the backpacks of some 80 students, as well as a global positioning system device on their schoolbuses. The main goal appears to be to track whether students are on the bus when they should be. The head of the Rhode Island chapter of the ACLU ...


Today's ruling by a federal appeals court reviving a legal challenge to the No Child Left Behind Act is unquestionably a major victory for the National Education Association and a coalition of school districts. The NEA's suit on behalf of itself, some of its state affiliates, and nine school districts in Michigan, Texas, and Vermont had been languishing in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit for more than two years after a federal district judge in Detroit had dismissed the suit in 2005. But now a majority on a three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit court ...


In a significant development just as the No Child Left Behind Act is turning 6 years old this week, a federal appeals court has revived a major lawsuit challenging the federal education law as an unfunded mandate. The opinion by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, in Cincinnati, is here. Education Week reported in 2005 on a federal district judge dismissing the suit, which is backed by the National Education Association. I'll have more on the 6th Circuit decision soon....


In this week's "Law & Courts" column in Education Week, I explored a couple of recent court rulings about what I thought was an interesting question: Do students have a due-process right to confront the witnesses against them in school disciplinary cases? As I discussed in the column, two courts in New Mexico and Illinois answered "no." As it turns out, most courts that have confronted the issue (no pun intended) have also ruled against students, citing such things as the complexity such a right would add at the school disciplinary level, the potential effect on whether students would be willing ...


This is a new Education Week blog on legal issues in education. I have covered school law for the newspaper for more than 15 years. After a few years off the beat, I returned last spring, just in time for the U.S. Supreme Court to finish one of its most significant terms for K-12 education in a generation. (See a summary of the cases from the 2006-07 term, which is embedded in this story about the decision in one of them, the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" student speech case.) My plan for this blog is to be newsy, with ...


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