A total of 33 states and the District of Columbia have thus far been granted NCLB waivers, with 10 more states’ waiver applications pending. This means that California joins a small group that has been denied. Iowa was rejected by the Education Department earlier in 2012, although Iowa and five other states, Alabama, Alaska, Idaho, Maine and West Virginia, were granted a one year freeze on the requirement to increase student test scores.
The fallout from this rejection is as of yet unclear, but the possibilities are quite drastic.
Based on the 2001 NCLB law, the time frame under which states were required by the law to meet certain standards, particularly that of increased student test scores to the level of “proficient” set by the law, is nearly here. For this reason, most states have been granted reprieves by waivers. Since California has not received a waiver, there is the possibility that they may have to offer parents the option for their children to transfer to other schools within their district as well as set aside money for tutoring, transportation, and teacher training. There is even the possibility that a failing school may be forced to have its entire leadership and staff be rehired.
There is still a possibility that the Education Department may grant individual waivers to certain school districts within California, such as LAUSD; however Education Secretary Arne Duncan has received negative feedback on this plan from state officials in the past.
Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, has also helpfully placed the situation with California in its larger context. He argues that a perfect storm of factors has put Education Secretary Arne Duncan in an unprecedented position of power. First, there is the lack of new legislation on NCLB, which is connected with the larger issues of the budgetary crisis and a gridlocked Congress. Second, there is the situation of budgetary need in which most states find themselves, meaning that states are unwilling to risk losing out on federal education funds. Third, there is the imminent NCLB deadline approaching. Marc Tucker asserts that, based on each of these factors which place pressure on state school systems, Arne Duncan has been able to, without Congressional check, demand state adherence to his own education reform efforts in return for waivers. Furthermore, since Duncan finds himself in this position of power, he has no great incentive to push for a reform bill on NCLB, further weakening education legislation.
California, in its response to having its waiver request denied, called on Congress to reform NCLB. This would put an end to the tight situation described by Tucker and would also mean greater Congressional control over the workings of the Education Department.
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