'No Child Left Behind' Costs Tallied

Bill for State, Districts Tops $61 Million

Virginia school districts and the state have spent more than $61 million in the past year to cover the costs of the No Child Left Behind law because the federal government has failed to fully fund the Bush administration mandate, according to a study presented to the state Board of Education.

The study looked at costs at the state and local levels, including those incurred developing standardized tests, tracking scores of thousands of students, finding and keeping qualified teachers, and imposing sanctions on schools that fail to meet the benchmarks.

It found that the Virginia Department of Education and local school divisions spent an estimated $264 million on law-related expenses last year. That's 23 percent more than they say they received in new federal dollars meant to cover the costs. At the local level, the study found that school divisions spent $207 per student. But because of the federal funding shortfall, districts picked up $52.80 per student.

The study was conducted by state officials and a Denver consulting firm.

Mirant to Fire Up Generators Again

No Changes Made to Reduce Pollutants

Mirant Corp. officials announced a limited reopening of their power plant in Alexandria but said they had not yet made changes to the plant to reduce pollution levels that alarmed state environmental officials and prompted closure of the plant last month.

Plans call for running one of five generators at the plant up to 16 hours a day, with an eight-hour break.

Meanwhile, the city of Alexandria filed an amended complaint seeking declaratory and injunctive relief in the enforcement action pending against Mirant in Alexandria Federal District Court as a result of the company's decision to restart the plant.

Friend Describes Girls' Ride in Car Trunk

Driver Allegedly Dismissed Safety Concern

A woman accused of forcing two of her children to take turns riding in a car trunk during a trip from Alabama to Loudoun County told the girls "that's what bumpers are for" when one expressed concern about possibly getting hurt in a car accident, prosecutors said.

Details about the trip emerged as Cheryl Ann Brown, 38, faced the charges in court for the first time on Thursday. She is charged with one count of abuse and neglect of children in the July 1 road trip. A Loudoun judge ruled that there was enough evidence to send her case to a grand jury.

Authorities allege that Brown rotated her 10-year-old and 8-year-old daughters in and out of the trunk because the Nissan Sentra she had rented was cramped with three other passengers and a dog. Also in the car, they have said, were Brown's infant daughter, her 12-year-old daughter and the girl's 12-year-old friend, who testified in closed court about the ride.

Mara Salvatrucha Member Convicted

Slain Herndon Teen Was Part of Rival Gang

A member of the Mara Salvatrucha street gang became the second person convicted in a regionwide effort to target the violent gang using broad federal racketeering laws.

Alirio Reyes, 26, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Alexandria to federal charges in the slaying of a Herndon teenager, prosecutors said. Reyes admitted that he shot Jose Sandoval, 17, in May 2004 because Sandoval said he was a member of a rival gang.

Alexandria Developer Is Sued

Units Called Inaccessible to Wheelchair Users

A large Alexandria-based developer violated federal law by building 100 apartment complexes nationwide -- 13 in the Washington area -- that are not accessible to people with disabilities, according to a federal civil lawsuit filed in Maryland.

AvalonBay Communities Inc. built apartments with thresholds that are too high for wheelchair users to pass over, bathrooms and kitchens that do not have enough floor space for a person in a wheelchair to maneuver, and light switches at heights inaccessible to someone in a wheelchair, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.

The 23-page lawsuit was filed by private attorneys working on a pro bono basis and the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs on behalf of the Equal Rights Center.

Across the Region

Panda's Debut Planned; Drought Declared

* The National Zoo hopes to put its giant panda cub on public view in November, probably before Thanksgiving, and plans to ease the expected crush of visitors by handing out timed-entry tickets to the Panda House.

* The long dry stretch in the Washington area officially has officially been classified as a moderate drought. The area's last significant rain was four weeks ago, when a quarter-inch fell Aug. 27 and again the day after. In September, the precipitation has been barely perceptible: only 0.01 of an inch, on Sept. 15.