Yesterday, the Obama Administration announced that eight more states will receive waivers to opt out of the onerous provisions of No Child Left Behind (NCLB).
As Education Week’s Alyson Klein reported on Tuesday, “The U.S. Department of Education today granted waivers to eight of the 26 states (plus the District of Columbia) that applied in February for wiggle room under the No Child Left Behind Act. The second-round waiver states are: Connecticut, Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Rhode Island.”
However, the message of “relief” and “flexibility” the Administration is pushing is a far cry from what the waivers actually represent. Sure, states may receive temporary relief from one flawed federal policy, but they are doing so at the cost of agreeing to even greater federal encroachment. To receive a waiver, a state must sign on to a set of conditions set forth by the Administration.
“One of the most concerning conditions attached to the waivers is the requirement for states to adopt common standards and tests,” wrote Heritage’s Lindsey Burke earlier this year. “Having national organizations and the Department of Education dictating standards and tests will effectively centralize control of the content taught in local schools. It’s an unprecedented and dangerous federal overreach.”
Interestingly, as Klein points out, most of the eight states receiving waivers have already signed on to the Administration’s education reforms as part of the Race to the Top grant competition:
Except for Connecticut and Louisiana, all of the waiver recipients were among the dozen states that won a slice of the $4 billion Race to the Top fund. That shouldn’t surprise anyone. To get a waiver, states must embrace certain Obama administration reform priorities. And many of those requirements… are similar to the policies embraced by the administration’s Race to the Top competitive grant program.
Undoubtedly, states need relief from NCLB, but waivers fraught with heavy-handed demands from Washington are far from the best interest of states. The Administration’s approach of advancing its own agenda by circumventing Congress shows blatant disregard for the proper lawmaking process. While the Obama Administration has been attempting to impose its own education agenda on states, other reforms that provide true flexibility are currently being considered in Congress, such as the A-PLUS proposal, which would allow states to completely opt out of No Child Left Behind.
Instead of kowtowing to the White House’s demands, states should reject strings-attached waivers and insist on real flexibility.
To learn more about the dangers of national standards, watch our video: “Washington’s Latest Education Overreach: National Standards for Schools“