Texas Should Steer Clear of NCLB Waivers

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In a “surprise” move, Texas announced last Thursday that it would seek a No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver from the U.S. Department of Education.

The Obama Administration’s waivers, touted under the banner of providing “flexibility” and “relief” from the onerous provisions of NCLB, in reality replace the federal overreach of NCLB with more federal burdens. In order to receive a waiver, states must agree to adopt the Administration’s preferred policies, the most concerning of these being Common Core education standards.

Over the last two years, Texas has staunchly refused to adopt the federally backed Common Core standards. Even now that the state has announced it will seek a waiver, Education Week reports that “Texas is not applying for the formal waiver that the department has spelled out, but as is the Texas way, wants to create its own waiver proposal.”

As Debbie Ratcliffe, spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency explained, “this allows us to define the waiver request without agreeing to the strings that were attached to the NCLB waiver.”

But when it comes to flexibility and allowing states to create their own path to improving education, the waivers provide anything but. States can do what they like—just as long as it’s what the Obama Administration says.

Education Week reporter Michele McNeil explains:

Will the department go along [with] a waiver proposal that’s outside their structured process, giving flexibility without strings? Probably not. Last year, federal department spokesman Justin Hamilton said that the waivers were a “Plan B” if Congress could not reauthorize the [NCLB] law, and that there was no “Plan C.” “This will give all states the option of either complying with existing law or participating in plan B,” he said at the time.

States do need relief from the burdens of NCLB, but they need true flexibility, not strings-attached waivers that sidestep the proper legislative process. Instead of giving states the flexibility they seek, the waivers will tie schools more closely to the demands of Washington.

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Proposals like A-PLUS, the conservative alternative to NCLB, would provide states true flexibility. As Heritage’s Lindsey Burke writes:

The Obama Administration does not need to abrogate proper legislative process in order to provide relief from NCLB. Proposals such as the Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success (A-PLUS) would allow states to completely opt out of NCLB and direct dollars and decisions to the state’s most pressing priorities. It would do so by giving power to those closest to the child: state and local leaders, and ultimately, parents. The A-PLUS approach comes without the many strings attached to NCLB waivers and is a legislative branch proposal with strong support in Congress.

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