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Waterbury Signs On To No Child Left Behind Lawsuit

WATERBURY, Conn. -- Attorney General Richard Blumenthal's plan to sue over the federal No Child Left Behind law is getting some local support.

Waterbury's Board of Education voted 8-1 Monday to sanction the lawsuit.

Blumenthal hasn't yet filed it, but he has said he plans to challenge the federal law because it requires standardized testing and other programs without providing money to pay for them.

Though school officials in several cities and towns have said they support the lawsuit, only the Waterbury school board has held a formal vote. Blumenthal said he hopes other districts will do the same.

"If this Waterbury vote reflects a much broader, widespread groundswell of opposition to unfunded mandates, that will be very important to our legal action," Blumenthal said. "This vote may be the beginning of a real groundswell movement."

Waterbury is one of 43 state school districts that failed to make enough academic progress to meet federal standards last year.

The school board vote was a show of support, not a notice of intent to join the lawsuit as a plaintiff.

The state Board of Education has so far declined to endorse the lawsuit. Board members want a chance to negotiate with the federal government first.

The state Senate passed legislation that would have allowed Blumenthal to sue on behalf of the General Assembly, but the bill died when the House failed to take it up. The issue may come up again during a special session this summer.

Blumenthal said he's prepared to go ahead even without formal support from the legislature and the state Board of Education. He said he is soliciting support from other states and hopes to file the lawsuit within the next several months.

The National Education Association and school districts in Michigan, Vermont and Texas have already sued over the law.

In Waterbury, School Superintendent David Snead asked for a vote at the prompting of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents.

School officials believe Waterbury is the first city to take up the issue.

"I hope other towns have the courage to do this as well," said board member Kathy Flaherty.

Supporters of No Child Left Behind say testing ensures high academic standards. They contend Connecticut should be improving schools rather than fighting the federal government.

But Waterbury school board members say the law requires them to divert money from public programs to private ones.

Schools that fail to meet federal standards for three years in a row, for example, must pay outside companies to provide tutoring.

Even so, Waterbury school board member David Burgos said he believes court is the wrong place to fight federal education requirements.

"I'm leery of making policy changes using the court," he said. "I don't like the courts to be involved. Our pressure should be on the Legislature, not the courts."



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