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Kline, Alexander Call for GAO Study on Education Department’s Waiver Requirements

Leaders want information on how conditional waivers affect states and how department uses information provided by states to consider waiver requests

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), senior Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, today requested a study from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the Department of Education’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) waiver policies.

In a letter to GAO, they wrote, “In 2011, the department began issuing waivers to states regarding specific requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, and to date, 42 states and the District of Columbia have received ESEA waivers. In order to receive waivers, these states were required to comply with a new set of requirements, not authorized by Congress, related to standards and assessments, school accountability, and teacher and principal evaluation systems.”

The lawmakers noted the supporting documentation required to obtain waivers in their home states, which ranged from more than 700 to more than one thousand pages. “However, Congress has little information about how the department utilizes the data required of these and other states to grant, deny, renew, or revoke a state waiver,” they wrote. “Additionally, Congress has little insight into how states are impacted by the time and cost associated with applying for and implementing these waiver requirements.”

“Finally, the department has recently altered various requirements for certain states regarding implementation timelines for teacher and principal evaluation systems. At the same time, other states have had their waivers put on ‘high risk’ status, and Washington recently had its waiver revoked, over issues related to teacher and principal evaluation systems. The department has provided no justifications for these seemingly contradictory decisions.”

To read the full letter, click here.


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