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Nebraska Hits the Brakes on NCLB Waiver Request

By Alyson Klein — November 06, 2015 1 min read
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Will we see a reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act soon? Matt Blomstedt, Nebraska’s education commissioner, thinks it’s a real possibility, according to published reports.

In fact, he is hitting the pause button on the state’s pursuit of its first-ever waiver from many of the mandates of the NCLB law, to give lawmakers time to get the bill across the finish line. (Forty-two states and the District of Columbia already have waivers, but they aren’t as politically popular as they used to be.)

Nebraska, which applied for a waiver back in March, always knew its request was a long shot.

The state is reluctant to mandate that all its districts adopt teacher evaluations that take student progress into account, although it has come up with a model performance review system that districts can choose to participate in—or not. More in this story from the Omaha World-Herald.

The feds, on the other hand, have been pretty firm that state test scores must be a part of the teacher evaluation picture, even though the Education Department hasn’t been enforcing that piece of the waiver puzzle nearly as stringently as they were just a couple years ago.

Apparently the Education Department told Nebraska that the voluntary teacher evaluations wouldn’t cut it. But instead of going back to the drawing board, Blomstedt is pinning his hopes on Congress, and especially, the new Speaker of the House, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc.

Blomstedt may have good reason to be optimistic. Aides to the key lawmakers on K-12 policy, Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., as well as Reps. John Kline, R-Minn., and Bobby Scott, D-Va., have been burning the midnight oil trying to find a compromise between the House’s GOP-only NCLB rewrite, and a companion bill that passed the Senate with big bipartisan support. More on the process here.

There’s some question though, as to whether Ryan would put the legislation on the floor, since the compromise would need Democratic support to pass. Blomstedt, for one, has faith, according to the World-Herald.