Sunday, February 12, 2012

Waivers granted . . .

Susan Walsh/AP
I've been so focused on our work and the politics at the state level that I lost site of what is happening with the rewrite of ESEA and NCLB and the waiver process.  No good news on the rewrite process as it is still under partisan debate in the House, but the President did last week announce the first ten states to be granted a waiver from the punitive components of  NCLB.  All but one of the states asking for waivers in the first round were successful.  Our state is in the process of requesting the same waiver.

Not all are pleased with the President's decision to grant waivers as they see it as circumventing the law.  The chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce is one of those who spoke up.

On Thursday, Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, accused Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Obama of usurping the role of Congress. Kline released the final bills in a series of five proposals to replace No Child Left Behind. Only one, aimed at expanding charter schools, has attracted Democratic support.

“Rather than work with us to get it changed, he [Duncan] and the president decided to issue waivers in exchange for states adopting policies that he wants them to have,” Kline told a gathering at the American Enterprise Institute. “. . . This notion that Congress is sort of an impediment to be bypassed, I find very, very troubling in many, many ways.”

Still others are concerned that the changes will result in loss of focus on key components of NCLB focused on monitoring the achievement of ALL students.

But some said the administration might be giving too much leeway. Amy Wilkins of the Education Trust, an advocacy group that seeks to close the achievement gap, said she is concerned that plans submitted by Indiana and Oklahoma don’t do enough to hold schools accountable for educating Latino, African American and other minority children.

As I've shared in earlier posts I believe removing the "failing" label is appropriate and I also believe that states should have more control over how they support the lowest achieving schools, two things granted in the waivers.  I am not as aligned with the requirements that go beyond those in NCLB for a successful waiver such as revised principal and teacher evaluation systems and agreement with revised standards.  Additions to the current law should come from Congress and not through a waiver process.  I suppose if I carry that logic further I would be saying that the President should wait for Congress to act, something he is reluctant to do as shared in this Washington Post article.

Obama said he was awarding waivers because Congress had failed to revamp the 10-year-old law, despite broad, bipartisan agreement on Capitol Hill that it is in need of an overhaul.

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