States around the nation are anxiously waiting to see what the U.S. Department of Education’s waivers will hold for them. After years of Congress trying to pass a comprehensive reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) currently known as No Child Left Behind, the Department has stated it will step in this year to waive many of NCLB’s requirements before more than 80% of schools fail to make AYP.
CEC and other groups have weighed in on this question and encouraged the Department to ensure that students with disabilities are protected in any waiver proposal. Some in Congress have questioned whether the Department has authority to waive these requirements. But, most acknowledge that NCLB provides the Secretary of Education broad wavier authority. Now, the Center on Education Policy has released a new report detailing questions and answers about the potential waiver process.
In this new report, Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Secretary of Education’s Authority to Waive ESEA Requirements, the Center outlines the sources of the Secretary’s authority to waive requirements, and the major limitations on that power. More importantly for most, the Center discusses practical issues - like how quickly waivers could take effect.
How long will this all take?
The Department has stated that information about the waiver package will be available in September. To avoid a wave of AYP failures, waivers must take effect in the 2011-2012 school year. The Center’s report concludes that it is probable – to minimize the time needed to implement the waivers - that the Department will “publish one or more ‘non-regulatory policy guidance’ documents” not regulations.
The most recent example of the Department using a similar process occurred under the last Administration, when Secretary Spellings implemented a pilot program for states allowing them to use growth models to determine AYP. The Department announced that program on November 21, 2005, published guidance about it on January 25, 2006, and received the first round of proposals less than a month later.
Policy guidance documents, like this, are subject to public comment, but do not have the same time intensive review process that regulations require and, thus, if used here will allow states to take advantage of the waivers more quickly. CEC is concerned about how these waivers will impact requirements for students with disabilities. As always, CEC favors an open public process where there is enough time for interested stakeholders to review and express any concerns. Stay tuned to CEC for information about the waiver process and how it will impact students with exceptionalities.