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NEA Plans to Sue Feds Over NCLB Funding

Ohanian Comment: This is a start, but when are teachers going to stand up and resist the Reading First usurpation of their professionalism?

And who's writing Rod Paige's lines? "We've assembled a coalition of the willing to help the kids who need it most; the NEA wants to assemble a coalition of the whining to hold kids back."

Yours for more whining.

NEW ORLEANS -- The nation's largest teachers union plans to sue the federal government on behalf of states, school districts and teachers to amend or throw out President Bush's far-reaching education law.

In its strongest stance yet against the No Child Left Behind law, the National Education Association said Wednesday that schools can't be forced to pay for the law's extensive testing, tutoring and transfer requirements. ''We're prepared to take the criticism,'' said Robert Chanin, NEA general counsel. ''We're going after this law.''

''A power struggle is going on,'' NEA President Reg Weaver told 1,300 teachers gathered for a forum about the legislation during the group's annual meeting here. ''The feds are squeezing the states, states are squeezing the school districts, and they're trying to squeeze you. What we're saying is, it's time to squeeze back.''

The president signed the law in January 2002. Most of its requirements, including mandatory math and reading tests in grades three through eight, take effect over the next several years, but a few are already affecting schools, teachers say. Among other mandates: free tutoring or transfers out of schools that have sub-par test scores.

The NEA, which represents 2.7 million teachers, is in discussions with attorneys general in several states, Chanin said. He would not say which are ready to sign on to the suit. But he said the NEA has spoken with officials in Louisiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Utah and Hawaii, which have introduced state bills challenging the law over funding.

Chanin said he hopes to include school districts, local teachers unions and state legislators among the plaintiffs. He plans to file the suit this summer, using a provision in the law that says the government cannot require states or school districts to spend their own money on compliance.

Education Secretary Rod Paige reacted strongly. ''It is unfortunate that the national union establishment is talking about ways to hinder the goal of true reform,'' he said. ''We've assembled a coalition of the willing to help the kids who need it most; the NEA wants to assemble a coalition of the whining to hold kids back.''

Chanin said the suit will have the opposite effect: ''Killing this law, or major portions of it, is hardly getting in the way of progress.''

NEA delegates will vote today on a bid by teachers to organize a ''mass rally'' in Washington, D.C., this fall to protest the law.

— Greg Toppo
Teachers union plans to sue federal government over states' funding of education law
USA Today
July 3, 2003


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