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While agreeing that the federal mandates must be lifted, Mr. Domenech said he would prefer to see Mr. Duncan grant a blanket waiver to all states, not offer another “quid pro quo” that offers rewards in exchange for action that meets the approval of the Education Department.

“It’s similar to Race to the Top and other directives that have come from the department,” he said. “Before it was for the money. … Now it’s for regulatory relief.”

Race to the Top, the administration’s signature education initiative, allowed states to compete for federal grant money by drafting school reform plans. The Education Department judged those plans on a 500-point scale, and the winners received money, while the losers got nothing.

Mr. Domenech and others said they fear that the waiver proposal could include such stringent requirements and micromanagement from the federal government that states end up no better than they are now under No Child Left Behind.

“The devil is always in the details as to what will be required of the states in order for a waiver to be granted,” Tim Eller, Pennsylvania Department of Education spokesman, said Tuesday.

The administration’s plan could have another unintended consequence: Some fear the waiver strategy will give Congress an excuse to slow the acceleration of education reform.

But Mr. Domenech said that, waivers or not, federal lawmakers are unlikely to extend or reform No Child Left Behind.

“There’s just such a lack of willingness to come together and collaborate. … I don’t think, one way or the other, it’s going to happen,” he said.