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Wide Range Of Reactions To NCLB Waiver Denial

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Here are more reactions to the U.S. Department of Education’s rejection of Oklahoma’s application for a continued waiver from the “No Child Left Behind” laws.

The Oklahoma Policy Institute highlighted a blog post from June 3, 2014 that outlined the jeopardy Oklahoma might face with the repeal of the Common Core standards adopted in 2010:

Oklahoma was among the first states granted an NCLB ‘flexibility waiver’ two years ago. The waiver exempts Oklahoma from eleven requirements under NCLB, including the requirement that schools make Adequate Yearly Progress* and various restrictions on the spending of federal funds. In its waiver application, Oklahoma touted a number of educational reforms enacted in recent years that were seen as establishing its commitment to the goals of NCLB, including its adoption of “rigorous English language arts and math standards now in place in 45 other States and the District of Columbia.” These, of course, are the Common Core standards that were adopted by the Oklahoma Legislature in 2010. The standards are set to take effect in 2014 but would be repealed by HB 3399. However, according to the State Department of Education, the Cooperative Council of School Administrators and others, the standards that were in place prior to 2010, known as PASS (Priority Academic Student Skills), will not meet the threshold of college- and career-readiness. This in turn directly jeopardizes Oklahoma’s NCLB waiver. The consequences of losing our NCLB waiver would be significant. Oklahoma schools would be returned to the Adequate Yearly Progress* performance index and most will be subject to some kind of intervention from the state or federal government. Although the state’s waiver plan also includes turn-around plans for the lowest-performing schools (Priority Schools), NCLB’s measures would apply to far more schools and would provide less flexible interventions. According to the State Department of Education, whereas 168 schools are identified as Priority Schools under the waiver, 1,672 schools would be on the Needs Improvement List, requiring improvement or corrective action. These schools will be obliged to set aside 20 percent of the federal funds they receive for disadvantaged students under Title I – some $27.2 million – and use them for NCLB-prescribed remedies for low-performing schools, including supplemental educational services and school choice.

The Oklahoma House of Representatives leadership released the following:

Oklahoma House leaders expressed disappointment today after learning the federal government will pursue a punitive course of action following Oklahoma's repeal of Common Core State Standards earlier this year. Oklahoma officials received a letter today from the United States Department of Education stating they will not renew Oklahoma's No Child Left Behind waiver. This heavy handed decision comes after the passage of House Bill 3399, a measure which repealed the untested Common Core State Standards and put in place a process to develop and adopt new, superior standards with the help of Oklahoma higher-education and Career Tech systems. The U.S. Department of Education has deemed Oklahoma's pursuit of proven college and career-ready standards to be a failure to adhere to the NCLB waiver principles.
"We knew the federal government could opt to take some actions when we passed HB3399," said House Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview. "None-the-less, this decision is troubling because it sets back the efforts of our local schools to continue improving by imposing on them unhelpful and unnecessary regulations. This situation makes it even more imperative that the State Board of Education move quickly to begin the process of creating and adopting new superior standards." In a letter to Oklahoma officials, Deborah Delisle, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education, explained the basis of their decision stating that "Oklahoma can no longer demonstrate that the state's standards are college and career-ready standards." "I challenge the U.S. Dept. of Education to 'demonstrate' that Common Core is college and career ready in Oklahoma before they begin dictating how we run our state's education system," said Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City. "They can't do it. Each state's college remediation requirements are different and they have absolutely no idea if Common Core meets their own requirements. "In the Obama administration's determination to compel Oklahoma to stay with Common Core, they plan to impose onerous federal regulations on our education system that were unnecessary this morning but are now, amazingly, necessary this afternoon. It's obvious that states like Oklahoma must not flinch in taking back control of our standards if we truly want standards that can be 'demonstrated' to be college and career ready. Unfortunately, this letter is the latest example of the slow death of federalism which is being replaced with flawed logic."

Oklahoma House Democrats, led by Representative Scot Inman, released the following:

Democrats in the state House of Representatives were "disappointed, but not surprised," at the announcement Thursday that the federal government will not continue to grant Oklahoma schools a "No Child Left Behind" waiver. "As Oklahomans, we believe that public education is best handled at the local level, by parents, teachers, administrators, state legislators and state education specialists, not by Washington bureaucrats," House Minority Leader Scott Inman said. "However," the Del City Democrat continued, "we are not surprised by the Government's decision." Furthermore, "We are equally disappointed in Governor Fallin and the Republican-dominated Legislature," Inman said. "Their record on education over the past four years has been abysmal: budget cuts, excessive testing of students, and to top it all off, this year the Republicans repealed education standards that they themselves heartily embraced and voluntarily adopted four years ago. "We warned the Republicans against moving forward hastily on this issue, without fully considering all of the potential ramifications. As a result, Oklahoma schools are in danger of being taken over by the federal government. Governor Fallin and Republicans in the Legislature warrant a big, fat 'F' on the subject of education. "Instead of blaming the Obama administration for this fiasco, they need to look in the mirror. That's where the blame lies."

Shawn Hime, Executive Director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, Steven Crawford, Executive Director of the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration and Ryan Owens, Executive Director of the United Suburban Schools Association released the following statement:

"The U.S. Department of Education's denial of the waiver request is disappointing but comes as no surprise. This was a foreseeable consequence of the passage of House Bill 3399. Today's announcement means schools throughout the state could have a change in school improvement designation. The change means schools will have to re-examine their budgets and employment contracts to comply with the No Child Left Behind requirements. It's unfortunate this decision was hastily made without first conferring with our State Regents for Higher Education, who are currently reviewing the state's Priority Academic Student Skills standards and could very well certify them as "college and career ready" for the purposes of keeping the waiver. Our commitment is to work with state and federal officials, as well as local educators, to pursue possible appeals, write a new waiver request, and provide guidance as our members take their next steps under the federal No Child Left Behind law."

A press release from Oklahoma Representative Mike Shelton said,

“Governor Fallin and Republican state legislators "dared the federal government to take over Oklahoma schools," state Rep. Mike Shelton charged Thursday. "And the feds called their bluff." Shelton made that assertion after the Obama administration announced that, because of Oklahoma's repeal this year of the Common Core educational standards, it would not continue to grant Oklahoma schools a "No Child Left Behind" waiver. "The GOP virtually invited the federal government to take this step when the Republicans chose to play politics instead of taking care of our children," the Oklahoma City Democrat said. "I wonder whether our governor wishes now that she hadn't flip-flopped on Common Core and signed the legislation to scrap it." Shelton concluded by reminding his GOP colleagues in the Legislature that No Child Left Behind "was a product of the George W. Bush Administration."

The State Chamber of Commerce released the following statement:

Oklahoma Educated Workforce Initiative Executive Director Jennifer Monies released the following statement following the loss of the state's waiver to federal No Child Left Behind mandates: "We hope that the U.S. Department of Education's decision today to revoke our state's No Child Left Behind waiver serves a wakeup call to all Oklahomans. Our state's education system is failing many of our students and the status quo cannot continue. We must put in place rigorous, ambitious standards that encourage our students to exceed expectations and make sure they are ready for college or their career.
"Common Core, and education reform in general, has become highly politicized and our students are the ones suffering from the fallout. We must put aside our differences and work to craft the best standards in the nation and ensure every student in Oklahoma has access to a quality education. Hopefully, the loss of our waiver will be the catalyst for change that is desperately needed in our state."

Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman’s office released the following statement:

Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman today said the federal government's decision to deny the extension of Oklahoma's No Child Left Behind waiver will punish the state and further an agenda to control schools. The decision could force Oklahoma schools to reexamine their budgets to comply with federal regulations. Bingman said the denial was a political statement intended to punish Oklahoma for implementing reforms that empower parents and communities and encourage the adoption of more rigorous educational standards. "President Obama and the United States Department of Education have chosen to place politics ahead of the well-being of Oklahomans," said Bingman, R-Sapulpa. "Our education reform efforts have been squarely focused on ushering in higher standards and empowering parents with choice and more ability to direct their children's education. Unfortunately, the President and Washington bureaucrats have responded with a decision that attempts to place additional burdens on schools." Oklahoma this year repealed the Common Core standards with House Bill 3399, which was approved by broad, bipartisan majorities in the Senate and House. Sen. Josh Brecheen, who sponsored the proposal in the Senate, said the Legislature's decision to repeal Common Core restored to the state the ability to establish curricular standards that exceed Common Core, with the input of families, teachers and school administrators." Oklahomans, not Washington bureaucrats, are in the best position to determine how we teach our children," said Brecheen, R-Coalgate. "I am confident our repeal of Common Core will result in even higher standards and better educational outcomes, and it is an outrage that the federal government has chosen to punish us for our efforts to strengthen Oklahoma schools. The process for developing new academic standards specifically crafted to the needs of our students is advancing, and we are committed to fighting the federal government's decision."

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