Monday, August 8, 2011

NCLB Waivers with fine print: Legal and fundable?

Plenty of reporting today on the White House direction to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to give states relief from NCLB requirements, which is an unquestionable regulatory power. However, the waivers come with fine print yet to be revealed. In order to get the waiver, states must agree to implement the following:
"Administration officials said they will grant waivers to states that adopt standards designed to prepare high school graduates for college and careers, use a “flexible and targeted” accountability system for educators based on student growth and make “robust use of data,” among other things".

Generally, it sounds like adopting the Common Core standards, Common Core Assessments, and participation in the national student longitudinal database initiative. California Governor Jerry Brown recently announced that the state will not participate in the national database initiative and will return the federal dollars. Brown says the state and districts already have a sufficient data collection mechanism. Montana Schools Superintendent Denise Juneau had already informed the federal Department of Education that it would not comply with NCLB mandates, but welcomed this new development:
"Montana Schools Superintendent Denise Juneau said she welcomed the waiver proposal, as long as it offers relief from the 2014 deadline. She said her state isn't afraid of high standards and education reform but needs enough time to reach those standards and freedom to institute change in a way that works for Montana.
Montana decided to skip a planned increase in its testing goals this past school year.
"I don't mind the goals and we're certainly not afraid of accountability. They can set the bar wherever they want. They just have to let us have the flexibility to get there," Juneau said. "We can definitely meet any bar they throw at us."

The details on the conditional waivers will be announced in September.

These conditional requirements are familiar, included in the Race to the Top competitive grants and provided implementation dollars. With state and local budgets already slashed deeply, how will states that did not get RT3 funds implement new mandates?

Chester Finn of Fordham University is one among many voices calling into question the authority and legality of the waiver plan:
“Even if one agrees with [Duncan] on the merits, as I do, the law doesn’t say he can unilaterally impose new conditions that aren’t in the law,” said Finn, a Republican. “There’s a separation of powers issue involved here. To what extent does the executive branch get to decide what’s in the law?”

So far there are two major problems: legality and funding.

No comments:

Post a Comment