As promised, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, has taken its first formal legal step against the U.S. Department of Education over the issue of testing of English-language learners. Scott hasn’t filed a lawsuit, but, on Friday, he sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, requesting a hearing on the issue before the Office of the Administrative Law Judges, which deals with government agencies. (Hat tip to the Tampa Bay Times.)
The source of the conflict: Earlier this year, Florida passed a law that would allow schools to delay counting the test results of English-learners for accountability purposes until those students have had at least two years of classroom instruction. The problem? Federal law, specifically the No Child Left Behind Act, wants ELLs to count after one year of instruction.
The Sunshine State sought to include the change in its application for an extension of its NCLB waiver. The Obama administration gave Florida the thumbs up on the extension, but said it couldn’t approve the change to ELL testing. It’s worth noting that the Education Department has made plenty of exceptions and changes in other areas of the waivers in general, especially when it comes to teacher evaluation.
And it’s also worth noting that there may be some politics at play here. Scott is locked in a tough battle for re-election against former Gov. Charlie Crist, the Democratic nominee. As my colleague Lesli Maxwell pointed out in this blog post, the education of ELLs is an important issue to Latino voters, who make up a huge voting block in the Florida. And Alberto M. Carvalho, the Miami Superintendent, is on Scott’s side of this issue.