Tuesday, December 09, 2014

USED tells Kentucky it is eligible for renewed ESEA Waiver, one of seven states

In "The good news and bad news on NCLB waivers," last August, Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday fired a shot across Arne Duncan's bow for the feds' overreach and lack of efficiency in dealing with NCLB waivers.
While the initial waiver process was something we supported in Kentucky, it has become problematic. When the state chiefs talked with Sec. Duncan about what would happen at the end of the initial waiver period, we recommended a "streamlined and expedited" process for one-year extensions. It remained our hope as state chiefs that, in the meantime, Congress would reauthorize NCLB. That has not happened.

There is significant evidence from many states that the waiver extension process has not been streamlined. State chiefs have reported to me and our Kentucky experience has shown that our staffs spent hundreds of hours in preparing what was supposed to have been a streamlined application (our initial waiver extension request was almost 200 pages). Also, our staff spent many hours in conference calls and rewriting our waiver application based on questions raised from USED staff.  Click here if you’d like to read it.

Nor has the waiver extension process been expedited, as we were promised.  We submitted our extension request May 1 and it was mid-August before we got word on its status.  Our initial waiver took less time to approve.

Holliday joined conservative critics of the administration saying, “I believe the current waiver process represents a major federal intrusion into the rights of each state to develop, implement, and manage the public education of the state.” He, and the conservatives, were right about that.

He further explained his position in, "USED action contrary to state, federal law," saying that USED, beyond all reason, was requiring Kentucky to give a science assessment that measures our previous science standards, an expectation that "not only violates our state law, but, also violates NCLB that requires states to assess science (once in elementary and middle school) based on current state standards."

Holliday was attending the Council of Chief State School Officers Annual Policy Forum, in November, when he wrote "Politics as usual or not?" It was clear the Chief's complaints were heard. The last thing Duncan needed was for the "school reform choir" to bolt for the church across town. 
As the dust settles from last week’s election, there is much talk and speculation about the impact the election may have on public education in this country. At least that has been a primary topic for discussion this week at the Council of Chief State School Officers Annual Policy Forum that I am attending.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan attended the meeting and took it as his opportunity to roll out the new Elementary and Secondary Education Act/No Child Left Behind waiver process to state education leaders...

Listening to the Secretary talk about the upcoming waiver process, it was apparent that he and his team had listened not only to me, but also to other state chiefs. Secretary Duncan told us as did the communication and guidance from the U.S. Department of Education (USED) that the waiver process is being streamlined and states will be able to seek a three year extension and in some cases a four year waiver extension.

While I am confident that the Secretary and his staff have listened to our concerns, during our meeting, I asked him about his priorities given the recent election. Despite being there to talk about the waiver process, it was very clear that his priority was reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

I wholeheartedly agree! It is time for us to make reauthorization of No Child Left Behind the top priority...

In a blog last week Holliday provided an update.
I wanted to briefly follow up to my blog, Politics as usual or not?, from several weeks ago about federal waivers and the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

Since then, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) has notified Kentucky that our state is one of seven eligible to apply for a four-year renewal of its ESEA Flexibility Waiver (most states can apply for only a three-year renewal) and participate in an expedited review process. Our current waiver expires at the end of the current school year.

Kentucky was granted this opportunity because of the focused work that our educators, partners and state department staff have carried out to implement Kentucky’s plan under ESEA flexibility. By participating in the expedited review process, the due date for the revised waiver request will be January 30. USED will provide a final decision by the end of March.

As is customary when the waiver document is revised, it will be made available to education constituents, the public and the board for review and feedback before it is submitted. Any feedback that we receive is reported to USED as part of the waiver submission process.

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