Most states seek waiver on education law

Attempt to avoid mandates on ‘No Child Left Behind’

A majority of states intend to take President Obama up on his offer to let them get around unpopular requirements in the “No Child Left Behind” education law, the Education Department said Thursday.

Mr. Obama said last month he was frustrated that Congress didn’t act to change the law that he has said is flawed, so he was moving forward with an effort to let qualifying states circumvent it.

His plan allows states to scrap a key requirement that all children show they are proficient in reading and math by 2014. To qualify, the states must submit a plan showing how they will meet certain requirements such as enacting standards to prepare students for college and testing for those standards, and by making teachers and principals more accountable by setting guidelines on evaluations.

The Education Department says 37 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have notified the agency that they intend to submit a plan to get a waiver around the law. Seventeen states have said they will submit a plan by Nov. 14, which means it will be reviewed in December and could be enacted as soon as early next year.

While the opportunity to apply for a waiver was warmly received in many states, some officials see the requirements to get a waiver as intrusive or expensive to implement. California, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas were among the states that didn’t file a notice of intention by a deadline Wednesday - although they still could apply for a waiver later.

In Texas, Debbie Ratcliffe, spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency, said the state was still weighing its options. Texas has not adopted what is known as the Common Core standards, a uniform national standard of what high school students should know when they graduate from high school.

Because of that, Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott has expressed concern that it could be a more arduous task for the state to prove it has adopted “college- and career-ready standards” that is a requirement for a state to get a waiver, Ms. Ratcliffe said, adding that Mr. Scott has also expressed concern that the state would find itself in the position of having the federal government controlling what teachers teach in their classrooms.

“Our concern is that it’s exchanging one set of strings for another set of strings,” Ms. Ratcliffe said.

The law, passed in 2002 under President George W. Bush with a major assist from Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, has been due for a rewrite since 2007.

This week, Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat and chairman of the Senate committee with jurisdiction over education, released an outline of a bill that he and Sen. Michael B. Enzi, Wyoming Republican, have worked on for almost a year that would resemble Mr. Obama’s plan for states but would apply to every state in the country and not just those that sought a waiver. The committee is scheduled Tuesday to begin hammering out the bill’s language.

The GOP-led House Education and the Workforce Committee has forwarded three bills that would revamp aspects of the law but has yet to fully tackle some of the more contentious issues such as teacher effectiveness and accountability.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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