What does "including" mean?
That issue of statutory interpretation was raised in Arizona State Board for Charter Schools v. United States Department of Education.
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act o 1965) , federal education funds, which have been given to the states, can be distributed to "local eduationsal agencies," which are defined as "a public board of education or otherwise public authority legally constituted within a State for either administrative control or direction, or to perform a service function for, public elementary schools or secondary schools."
Under IDEA and ESEA, an "elementary school" is defined as "a nonprofit institutional day or residential school, including a public elementary charter school, that provides elementary education as determined under State law." A "secondary school" is defined as "a nonprofit institutional day or residential school, including a public secondary charter school, that provides secondary education, as determined under State law."
The Department of Education's Office of Inspector General concluded that the Arizona Department of Education ahd imporperly awarded federal IDEA and ESEA funds to for-profit entities that operated charter schools in Arizona. The Department determined that because the charter schools were for profit, they were not eligible for federal funds. Arizona sought resolution of this issue before the District Court. The District Court upheld the ruling of the Department of Education, and Arizona appealed.
Arizona took the position that "including" should be understood in the context of the statutes to mean "and" or "in addition to." The interpretation, it contended, would allow for-profit charter schools to be eligible to receive federal funds.
The Ninth Circuit disagreed. While it noted that on occasion some courts have interpreted "including" in the manner suggested by Arizona, such an interpretation was utilized to avoid an irrational or absurd result. Such an interpretation was not required here. Instead, the term should be understood as meaning "such as."
The Court also held that its reading of the statute was consistent with the legislative history.
Finally, the Court held that deference should be given to the Department of Education's construction of the statutory scheme that it administers.
The decision can be found here.