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Teaching Profession

Republican Lawmakers Ask GAO to Probe NCLB Waivers

By Alyson Klein — August 12, 2014 1 min read
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The Obama administration has issued more than 40 waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act to states, and is in the process of extending many of them.

But the two top Republicans in Congress on K-12 policy—Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House education committee, and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the top Republican on the Senate education panel, say they don’t have a clear grasp of how the department is implementing the program, or how states have changed their laws to comply with the waivers, not to mention what the process has been like for states seeking changes to their flexibility plans.

Now the two lawmakers want the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ investigative arm, to look into the waivers, which is sure to trigger a blockbuster of a GAO report at least in wonky K-12 policy land. (Really.)

For instance, Sen. Alexander and Rep. Kline are curious about the reasoning behind the department’s seemingly schizophrenic approach to the teacher-evaluation portion of the waivers. They want to know why, exactly, the feds have continually altered the timeline for some states to implement the evaluations, while putting others on high-risk status—and even revoking a waiver (Washington’s)—when states didn’t follow the federal teacher evaluation model as spelled out by the U.S. Department of Education.

They’re also asking the GAO to look into the processes the department has used to approve, deny, renew, and revoke states’ waiver applications. And they want to know what barriers waiver states face in crafting accountability systems that meet their unique needs.

It’s worth noting that both Rep. Kline and Sen. Alexander have introduced bills to reauthorize the NCLB law that would give states significantly more leeway in designing accountability systems than the waivers provide.

You can check out the lawmakers’ letter to the GAO here. Did they miss anything?