Has the Federal Government Violated California's 10th Amendment Rights by Forcing Funding Under IDEA
IDEA(Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act)is a required mandate by the federal government. This Act ensures terrific services and programs to students with special needs. However, the Act itself reflects that the states must pay for the programs which are mandatory. Justice O'Connor made an opinion on a similar case several years ago. She concluded that the states could not be forced to pay for federally mandated Acts not provided in the Constitution. Since IDEA spending is costing Calfornia Billions of dollars, $22 million alone in a tiny school district in California), isn't it time to ask the federal government to intervene?The 10th Amendment to the Constitution is not a well known or widely used protection. The 10th Amendment states that, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." Generally, the 10th Amendment allows states all powers not designated or provided by the Constitution.
As for education in California, is it possible that the10th Amendment is not being upheld? The answer could be a surprising, yes. The Constitution does not provide any federal authority over education whatsoever. Nonetheless, the federal government has formed federal statutes and Acts mandating certain education. Is it time to reinvigorate states' rights under this Amendment so that states can make decisions that are best for its citizens?
I recently published an article examining federal statutes for special education, as prescribed by the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act ("IDEA"). My article had a surprising and overwhelming response. Albeit most of the comments were not flattering to me as many recipients of IDEA services made assumptions on my position about special education itself. The fact is that I called the federal government to task to fund the statutorily mandated IDEA programs. Indeed, the school districts must oversee, manage and fund the IDEA programs and services. I submitted that the federal government should take the responsibility for IDEA. These programs and services through IDEA are costing school districts millions of dollars to maintain, which include lawsuit settlements resulting from parents alleging school district's deficiencies under IDEA mandates.
With the draconian cuts to the California education budget, including cutting thousands of teachers, it was time to investigate if California had a revenue problem or a spending problem. It's difficult for anyone to imagine just how bad public education will be hit commencing in 2009-2010. In addition to losing valuable teachers, class sizes will dramatically increase, school
libraries have already closed as well as a host of other programs. Yet IDEA special education spending will not and cannot change or be altered in any way.
The federal government mandates IDEA programs and services, but not other public education services, and forces the states and school districts to pay the bill.
The 10th Amendment to the Constitution is rarely heard or enforced in modern lawsuits. The Supreme Court has thrown out many lawsuits arguing federal taxes, Social Security, Medicare and the like, under the 10th Amendment. But there might be an interesting argument to raise for education. To review this, we need to answer these questions: Does the federal government have the right to impose federal education mandates on states? How can the 10th Amendment apply to the enforcement of IDEA programs and services to the State of California?
In 1992, the Supreme Court did make a ruling on a case alleging a violation of the 10th Amendment. The Supreme Court case entitled, New York v. The United States of America (1992), 505 U.S. 14, challenged a federally mandated Act called the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Amendments Act of 1985. The federal government obligated the state to bare the cost of disposing its waste as prescribed in this Act. The Supreme Court, in a 6?3 decision, found that this federally mandated program violated the states rights under the 10th Amendment and found in favor of the Plaintiff, New York. In her decision, Justice O'Connor found that the federal government can encourage but cannot mandate conditions for a federal Act and that the federal government cannot directly compel states to enforce federal regulations by forcing the funding.
The case of New York is interesting to add to the argument that IDEA is illegally forcing the states to fund it. Yes, I said "forcing." IDEA section 1400(c)(6) provides that states and local education agencies are "responsible for providing the education for students with disabilities, but that the Federal Government will have a role [emphasis added] in assisting the state and local education agencies." By using this language, the federal government has specifically mandated the statutes yet admits that they will only have a "role" in assisting the states. Moreover, it is a fact that states and school districts must fund the mandated programs for special education and services under IDEA. This does not appear to be constitutionally legal.
If the State of California and the local school districts enforce their protection and rights under the 10th Amendment, it could mean a victory in battling the budget crisis that we face in California schools. It may be a daunting task, but it does bring an interesting point.
The programs for special education should remain as should the teachers and all other programs we currently enjoy through our public schools.