Feds: No Extension For Oklahoma's Waiver From No Child Left Behind Act
WASHINGTON, D.C - The U.S. Department of Education announced Thursday that it rejected Oklahoma's application for an extension to its waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi's office says the decision will impose new federal mandates on Oklahoma schools.
The good news is public schools won't lose any federal money, but they will lose the right to decide how they spend millions of dollars they get each year from the government.
The U.S. Department of Education said the standards for Oklahoma's Public schools aren't up to snuff.
The feds said students aren't ready for college or careers and cut off a No Child Left Behind Flexibility Waiver that allowed Oklahoma to bend the rules.
Barresi said, “The regulations of No Child Left Behind, I believe, are counterproductive and overly rigid and they will pose a number of serious challenges for all of our schools.”
She said losing the waiver was inevitable after the state repealed common core math and reading standards, but also part of the problem, she said, Oklahoma's board of education delayed crafting new standards.
“We had met all the other requirements of the waiver, but that was that final piece that caused them to decline this,” Barresi said.
She said the state asked the federal government for a one year extension to give them time to create new standards for Oklahoma schools, but the feds said time's up, even though schools were getting stronger thanks to the waiver.
Although it's uncertain exactly how much, a huge chunk of many schools' budgets will now come with federal restrictions.
“Some districts will have a very unfortunate fiscal impact. I can't tell you how many. I can't give you percentages. We're just going to continue to work,” Barresi said.
One option on the table was for Oklahoma to reject the federal money, but Barresi said she'll keep it, and the state will comply with the No Child Left Behind requirements.
Governor Mary Fallin released a statement saying the decision comes in response to the state's decision to repeal Common Core State Standards and replace them with standards developed by Oklahomans.
In a news release she blamed President Obama for the decision.
"It is outrageous that President Obama and Washington bureaucrats are trying to dictate how Oklahoma schools spend education dollars," she said. "Because of overwhelming opposition from Oklahoma parents and voters to Common Core, Washington is now acting to punish us. This is one more example of an out-of-control presidency that places a politicized Washington agenda over the well-being of Oklahoma students. I join parents, teachers, and administrators in being outraged by this decision, and I will fight it with every tool available to the state of Oklahoma."
Governor Fallin said the state will continue to develop its own college and career ready standards to replace Common Core.
Dr. Trish Williams, chief financial officer for Tulsa Public Schools, issued a statement about the decision:
"We are disappointed at the loss of the state's NCLB waiver, as this was an expected outcome given the abandonment of the Common Core standards. This has serious implications for our district, as limitations will be placed upon how we can spend federal dollars. It will take some time for us to fully measure the impact on TPS students."
Oklahoma Congressman Jim Bridenstine released a statement that also criticized the federal government.
"This is nothing more than a bullying tactic and an excuse for a federal takeover of schools," he said. "The federal government has no constitutional basis for involvement in our education system. This is the purview of the states and local school districts. Oklahoma acted well within its rights to reject a national curriculum, and I encourage them to resist any attempts by President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan to take over our schools."
Three state school organizations -- the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration and the United Suburban Schools Association -- released a joint statement in response to the decision:
"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."