Alabama remains undecided on No Child Left Behind waivers

Published 4:36 pm Monday, October 3, 2011

Alabama education officials are still grappling with the decision of whether to apply for a waiver to the No Child Left Behind law.

President Barack Obama announced on Sept. 23 that states may apply for and receive waivers for parts of the law if they qualify, but they must also agree to follow his administration’s school improvement agenda.

One provision Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said can be waived for qualifying states is the law’s 2014 deadline for all students to achieve proficiency in reading and math.

Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, said financial concerns are delaying a decision in Alabama. The State Board of Education will make the final decision.

“There are some costs involved if you get the waiver,” Ward said. “However, I think at some point it’s going to be prudent for us to ask for a waiver. We’re not going to meet the score requirements the federal government has imposed upon us.”

Ward said the reason many states are seeking waivers is because of flawed scoring methods the NCLB law mandated in schools.

The downside is that many schools are already strapped with financial burdens, and NCLB waivers would only add more debt.

“I blame the economy,” Ward said, noting that lack of funding will not help schools meet test score requirements laid out by the NCLB law. “It’s put such a burden on so many states without finances to support it.”

According to The New York Times, the new policy maintains only those states that have adopted new academic standards that the administration calls “college and career ready” will be eligible to receive the waivers, based on White House documents distributed in September.

Ward said he disapproved of NCLB at its outset in 2001.

“The law has taken away time from classroom instruction and focused more on testing,” Ward said. “It needs to be repealed.”