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Federal Government Micromanages Education Policy in California

by Michael Higham, published

Federal Government Micromanages Education Policy in California

Late Tuesday, the US Department of Education granted a waiver from federal education regulations for a band of 10 school districts in California, known as CORE -- California Office to Reform Education.

CORE is the first non-state entity to obtain the highly sought-after No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver. The state of California has made several attempts in the past but to no avail. This round of requests -- for the 2013-2014 school year -- was the first time the state did not submit a request.

CORE districts include the following unified school districts; Los Angeles, Long Beach, Fresno, Santa Ana, San Francisco, Garden Grove, Sacramento City, Oakland, Clovis, and Sanger.

States and districts look to waivers to avert sanctions set forth by No Child Left Behind in 2001. NCLB officially expired in 2007, but a congressional revision of federal education is absent, allowing NCLB to continue.

On one hand, the federal government could be exercising excessive micromanagement of education policy. The waiver process itself puts the feds in a position to individualize rules and regulations for almost every state. Involvement in school districts may set the tone for increased micromanagement if other districts want different regulations.

On the other hand, the federal government could well within its bounds. It uses Section 9401 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to grants waivers for states and other educational entities. When California ended its request for the waiver, CORE took matters into its own hands.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan stated in Tuesday's press release:

"The CORE districts have been engaged in collaboration and innovation designed to promote deep student learning and effective implementation of new standards that will prepare students for college and a career."

Essentially, the federal education department treats CORE as a separate state. So, if the California is subject to federal regulations within the year, schools within CORE districts are exempt. However, when the CDE regulates the state's schools, the CDE has to grant CORE districts exceptions because of federal law. Education policy in California may become more difficult for all these entities to manage.

Opposition to the current administration has called out the Education Department for federal overreach and overlooking Congress with the waiver process.

Back in May, the California Department of Education stated it would not seek the NCLB waiver and instead focus on implementing its new school funding formula.

As of now, 39 states and the District of Columbia have obtained NCLB waivers. Eight other states have sent requests, but are in limbo.

The House passed a revision to No Child Left Behind last month called the Student Success Act (H.R. 5). However, it is still up for debate in the Senate.

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