Lawsuit filed against U.S. Department of Education
over teacher labeling
A federal lawsuit has been filed against the U.S. Department of
and Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings (above) charging
that the department has violated the No Child Left Behind Act.
Photo courtesy U.S.
Department of Education
By Jason Bennert
August 21, 2007
A coalition of activist groups and parents filed a federal lawsuit
in San Francisco today against the U.S. Department of Education
and Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings charging that the
department has violated the No Child Left Behind Act by certifying
under qualified teachers as being "highly qualified.''
The act, signed by President George W. Bush in 2002, requires
that only teachers who have a full state credential be considered
"highly qualified.'' However, the department has issued regulations
that allow states to label any teacher currently participating
in an alternative credential program while teaching as "highly
qualified,'' according to the plaintiffs.
The lawsuit argues that the department is violating the law,
deceiving parents and harming the educational development of children
by labeling beginning and intern teachers as "highly qualified.''
"Providing all students with highly qualified teachers is
the only way to ensure that no child is left behind. Defining
teachers in training as 'highly qualified' violates both the letter
and spirit of the law, primarily to the detriment of low income
students of color,'' according to plaintiffs' attorney Jenny Pearlman
of the law firm Public Advocates Inc.
Lorie Chinn, a board member of the activist group California
ACORN, one of the lawsuit's plaintiffs, said that schools teaching
poor and minority children have a disproportionate share of these
intern teachers and because of the DOE regulation the schools'
parents often do not even realize it.
"Parents deserve to know when their children's teacher is
an intern,'' Chinn said.
The lawsuit seeks to have the DOE regulation ruled illegal and
the definition of a "highly qualified teacher'' that is in
the NCLB Act be used instead.
"If we prevail, the suit will have ripple effects throughout
the implementation of NCLB nationally,'' Public Advocates staff
attorney Tara Kini said. "States and school districts will
no longer be permitted to concentrate teachers in training in
schools serving high numbers of students of color, and they will
be required to report accurately the numbers of 'highly qualified'
teachers so that real plans can be made to get better trained
and qualified teachers to all students.''
According to Public Advocates, more than 10,000 intern teachers
are labeled as "highly qualified'' each year in California.
Nationally the number is more than 100,000.
In addition to California ACORN the other plaintiffs in the lawsuit
include the activist group Californians for Justice as well as
a number of individual students and parents. The suit was filed
in U.S. District Court In San Francisco.
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