HARTFORD, Conn. — The U.S. Supreme Court decided Tuesday against hearing Connecticut's challenge to the federal No Child Left Behind law, ending the state's six-year lawsuit over how to pay for the stepped-up student testing considered one of the law's cornerstones.
Connecticut was the first state to challenge the 2002 law, which includes provisions requiring yearly standardized tests for children in grades three through eight. Connecticut previously tested students in grades four, six and eight.
The state's lawsuit sought to push the federal government to either change its testing rules or cover the extra testing costs, which Connecticut officials say add up to many millions of dollars.
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The high court's decision not to hear the state's appeal came after a federal judge and the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York both had agreed in earlier rulings that the lawsuit was premature.
Former state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, now the state's junior U.S. senator, had argued that Connecticut could not be forced to absorb those extra costs because of a provision barring unfunded mandates on the states.
Connecticut's options, if any, were unclear Tuesday as word of the Supreme Court's decision spread among state lawmakers, education administrators and others.
"We respect the court's decision and will consult with the state Department of Education on what next steps, if any, to pursue," said Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen, Blumenthal's successor.
State Education Department spokesman Thomas Murphy said Tuesday that the costs have been one of several topics of discussion as Congress considers how to proceed with reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind law and whether to revamp its requirements.
"The (Connecticut) lawsuit may have provided some additional attention to this, and may help to move us to a new approach to school improvement," Murphy said.
Some advocates of the lawsuit said they are encouraged that Blumenthal, as a senator, can keep pushing for changes he sought in the case. Connecticut state Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, a co-chairman of the legislature's education committee, said he is optimistic about improvements.
Blumenthal sued after the General Assembly and then-Gov. M. Jodi Rell approved a measure directing the attorney general to fight the Bush administration's law.
"While I find it unfortunate that the Supreme Court decided not to take up this case, I find some solace in the fact that we have a new administration that is going to rewrite the law and make it far more effective and sensible," Fleischmann said Tuesday.
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Blumenthal said he was disappointed by the Supreme Court's decision.
The court pronouncement "further underscores the need for strong action through the legislative process to reform educational policy, starting with the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act," Blumenthal said.
"I continue to believe strongly that more resources are necessary, unfunded mandates are misguided, and that educational reform is vital for our children, families and taxpayers," he said. "I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that any legislation affecting so many families across Connecticut will provide schools with the resources they need to raise the achievement of all our students."
The Connecticut lawsuit wasn't universally praised in its home state, however.
The Connecticut State Conference of the NAACP received a federal judge's permission in 2006 to intervene in the suit on the side of the federal Department of Education.
The NAACP and a group of minority parents and students it represents argued that the state was pursuing the lawsuit with money that could be used for other purposes. They also worried that voiding the law could set a precedent to allow the circumventing of many civil rights statutes.
A message seeking comment left Tuesday for the NAACP Connecticut president was not immediately returned.
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