violates Constitution: Attorney General
The federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (misleadingly dubbed
the “No Child Left Behind” act by the Bush administration)
is probably administered unconstitutionally and illegally in Wisconsin,
according to an opinion from the state attorney general released Wednesday
(May 12, 2004).
In response to a request from Senator Fred Risser, Attorney General
Peg Lautenschlager issued an opinion finding that the federal government
is requiring state governments to spend their own money to implement
the law, in violation of federal statutes and the Constitution. The
opinion encourages school boards and the state government to challenge
the law in court.
“This opinion shines a spotlight on the many problems with this
law,” Wisconsin Education Association Council President Stan Johnson
said. “The ESEA amounts to an unfunded mandate imposed by the
federal government. It could require the largest property tax increase
in Wisconsin history.”
Johnson said the ESEA’s punitive requirements force school districts
to focus on the wrong priorities by wasting scarce resources on excessive
standardized testing, bureaucracy and paperwork.
“It could cost Wisconsin taxpayers more than $2 billion to fully
implement the ESEA’s unfunded mandates,” Johnson said. “Supporters
of property tax freeze gimmicks should take into consideration the vast
impact of this law on property taxes.”
Johnson said the ESEA forces a one-size-fits-all approach on children,
regardless of their learning differences and needs.
“The law does not allow school districts to create a great school
for every child,” Johnson said. “It allows the federal government
to make decisions about how Wisconsin children are educated, taking
control away from school boards, parents and communities. It punishes
schools and communities based on how children perform on a single test.
Every child can learn, but parents and teachers know that children don’t
learn at the same speed or in the same way. This law focuses on failure
instead of rewarding success.
"The education community is focused on what children really need:
smaller classes, quality teaching, more parental involvement, and up-to-date
books and materials.”
Johnson said the opinion may encourage other states to stand up and
demand that the law be fixed and funded.
“This is the first ruling of its kind in the United States and
sets a national precedent,” he said. “Other states face
the same crisis as Wisconsin. We urge school districts or the state
government to go to court and correct this injustice. The Bush administration
should not be allowed to continue to hide behind rhetoric. The law as
it stands now is nothing less than a cruel, ill-conceived means to justify
shifting federal dollars into the pockets of private education profiteers.
It is one more dramatic example of how the Bush administration is leading
this country in the wrong direction.
Resource Page on ESEA
Posted May 13, 2004