Under No Child Left Behind, states were required to fulfill extensive accountability requirements to receive funding. These requirements led states to argue, unsuccessfully, that NCLB is an "unfunded mandate." For example, the state of Connecticut sued the federal government in 2005 for allegedly requiring the state to spend millions of state dollars on additional NCLB testing. A federal judge dismissed Connecticut's lawsuit on jurisdictional grounds, effectively ending the state's challenge.
NCLB, however, did not mandate that states participate in the program. All requirements are a condition of funds. While a state may struggle financially without federal education funding, it could choose to opt out of NCLB and the requirements it included. As a result, it was not accurate to refer to NCLB as an "unfunded mandate." The law's requirements only applied to those states that voluntarily elected to participate.
While the law may not classify as an unfunded mandate, states may have justified in voicing the concern that NCLB was "underfunded." When NCLB was passed, the Department of Education assured states that federal funding would cover a significant portion of the costs associated with the law's new requirements. The costs of test administration, data collection, and school improvement reforms have been significant, however, and states have argued that the federal government did not adequately support them. A Government Accountability Office report estimated the additional implementation expenditures states would see from 2002-2008, which varied depending on the type of test states used.
Several state legislatures requested estimates of the total cost of fully implementing NCLB and reaching the legislation's goal of 100 percent proficiency by 2014 in their state. In Ohio, for example, a study estimated that the state would have to spend about $1.5 billion more on education each year to meet NCLB's additional accountability requirements and achievement goals.