Many have expressed concerns this conditional waivers plan could slow Congressional efforts to rewrite the law and create more confusion for states and schools. Details of the administration’s plan are vague, but one thing is clear: the plan will grant the secretary unprecedented authority to handpick winners and losers in our nation’s education system.
House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) outlined his concerns about the administration’s plan: “While I recognize the sense of urgency to reform current law, the Department of Education should not be granted the sweeping authority to bypass Congress,” Kline said. “Any initiative that holds temporary measures above quality, lasting reforms will create more upheaval and uncertainty for states in the long run.”
This concern has been echoed by school leaders across the country. In an NPR interview last week, Council of Chief State School Officers Executive Director Gene Wilhoit alluded to the potential confusion states could face in the coming months. “What we will have is a group of states who, if successful in getting a waiver, will be operating under this system and another group of states who will be operating under No Child Left Behind,” he said.
If added confusion and uncertainty wasn’t enough, the plan also raises legal questions. A recent Huffington Post article stated, “Under No Child Left Behind, the Secretary of Education may waive provisions of the law for states in need, but he has no explicit authority to ask states to adopt reforms in exchange. In August, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said Obama had approved plans to, in effect, reform the law without going through Congress: The secretary would waive specific provisions of the law in exchange for states agreeing to adopt favored reforms. The expanded waiver process is the administration's attempt to implement its own reforms, and the process comes with political risk.”
The nation needs long-term reforms that will enable every student to succeed, not short-term policy changes dictated by the Secretary of Education. That’s why Chairman Kline is advancing a series of targeted education bills that will roll back federal intrusion in classrooms, eliminate wasteful education spending, improve accountability, support more effective teachers, and provide more flexibility to state and local education leaders. Legislation to expand quality education opportunities for students passed the House in mid-September with strong bipartisan support.
For more information on Chairman Kline’s education reform agenda, visit www.edworkforce.house.gov.