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Oklahoma Loses 'No Child Left Behind' Waiver Following Common Core Repeal

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Oklahoma has lost its “No Child Left Behind” waiver following the legislature's repeal of Common Core earlier this year.

In a letter sent today to State Superintendent Janet Barresi, officials with the U.S. Department of Education said, "Oklahoma can no longer demonstrate that the State's standards are college- and career-ready standards."

In order to be granted flexibility in meeting federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) standards, states must show, among other things, that they have adopted college- and career-ready standards in English and math.

When Oklahoma adopted common core standards in 2010, the letter states, it met that requirement, which is why the state's initial application for flexibility in 2012 was approved.

In the 2014 legislative session, however, conservative lawmakers in Oklahoma fought and succeeded in repealing the common core standards, arguing they were, at their heart, an attempt by the federal government to take over local schools.

7/25/2014 Related Story: Common Core Decision Could Impact Federal Funding For Oklahoma

There were warnings at the time, from supporters of common core, that this action would result in the state losing its NCLB waiver.

"This decision should not come as a surprise," said Amber England, executive director of Stand for Children Oklahoma, an education advocacy group, "as lawmakers were warned multiple times that the votes to repeal Oklahoma's rigorous standards would lead down this road. Instead...[leadership] decided to place election year politics before students."

In a news conference this afternoon to announce the waiver denial, Superintendent Barresi called the decision "disappointing and frustrating."

Barresi says her staff worked hard to show USDE that having the waiver has allowed the state to make significant progress in strengthening public schools and that, in spite of the repeal of common core standards, new standards -- standards that would be college- and career-ready -- are within reach.

8/16/2014 Related Story: State Seeks Federal Waiver Over Common Core Repeal

Supt. Barresi acknowledged that the state's regents for higher education had failed to meet an August 12 deadline to certify that Oklahoma's current math and English standards are college- and career-ready, and she noted that the State Board of Education had delayed the process of developing the new standards.

Still, Barresi made clear her belief that Oklahoma still deserved to have the waiver extended.

"Unfortunately, the USDE decided otherwise," said Barresi. "The loss of the waiver will be a significant challenge for our districts and schools, as well as for this state agency. But Oklahomans are resilient and resolute, and our education community will do what needs to be done to meet the requirements of NCLB.”

Loss of the waiver means the state will again have to resume compliance with No Child Left Behind mandates. The state will not lose any of the federal funding it receives, but there will be greater restrictions on how it can be used.

It's estimated the loss of the waiver will put restrictions on 20 percent of the $500 million in federal funds that flow into local school districts each year.

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