The National School Boards Association (NSBA) was encouraged on Thursday by President Barack Obama’s announcement to waive problematic and burdensome regulatory requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) from ten states.
However, NSBA cautions that this is not enough and is calling for Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary School Education Act (ESEA).
“The NCLB waiver program will give ten states additional flexibility but also imposes new conditions and program criteria on states and school districts requiring them to engage in activities that do not necessarily improve student achievement.” said Anne L. Bryant, NSBA’s Executive Director, who was at the White House for the announcement. “The waiver process should not be viewed as an acceptable substitute for ESEA reauthorization, as all U.S. school districts must be free of unnecessary or counterproductive federal mandates that hinder our goals of increasing student achievement. Congress cannot continue to delay, now is the time to reauthorize ESEA and fully replace the current accountability system that neither accurately nor fairly reflects the performance of students, schools, or school districts.”
The first ten states to receive the waivers are Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. The next submission deadline to request waivers is February 21, 2012. As of February 6, 2012, the U.S. Department of Education reports that 28 additional states, D.C., and Puerto Rico have submitted an intent to request waivers for the February deadline. For those states that do not choose to apply or whose application is rejected, their local school districts will continue to suffer under the existing NCLB regime.
Bryant additionally noted, “If Congress waits until next year to reauthorize ESEA and decides not to include these conditions or decides on a different set of requirements, school districts could have spent unnecessary time and financial resources to comply with the waivers.”
Where state applications are approved for waivers, local school boards will be offered far greater flexibility in the use of federal funds to address their own unique needs. Of great significance to local school boards experiencing declines in their own revenue streams is the elimination of requirements to set aside 20 percent of Title I funds for public school choice and supplemental tutorial services. While local school boards may continue to fund additional tutorial and open enrollment programs, these funds may be used to support school improvement strategies that can more effectively address local conditions.
Additionally, the waivers allow states to request relief from NCLB’s other badly flawed policies and regulations. This includes an accountability system requiring all students and groups of students to be 100 percent proficient by 2014 and a one-size-fits-all system of punitive actions against schools and school districts such as the firing of principals and teachers or closing of schools that rarely resulted in consistent improvement in student achievement.