The Capitol Record

Feds rescind No Child Left Behind waiver from Washington state

The U.S. Department of Education is rescinding Washington’s No Child Left Behind waiver, a move state officials called disappointing but not surprising.

Washington is the first state to lose the waiver, and it means public schools will no longer have flexibility in spending about $40 million in federal funding.

“Loss of that funding means those districts now face potential impacts that could include laying off some of Washington’s tremendous teachers or cutting back on programs that serve at-risk students,” said Gov. Jay Inslee, who called the decision “disappointing but not unexpected.”

The waiver is being revoked because the state did not adopt legislation to require student test scores to be a factor in teacher and principal evaluations, according to the Education Department.

“I recognize that requiring the use of statewide assessments to measure student learning growth requires a legislative change, and that Gov. Inslee and your office worked diligently to obtain that change,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan wrote in a letter to Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn. “However, because those efforts were unsuccessful, and your legislature is not scheduled to reconvene until January 2015, I cannot extend Washington’s authority to implement ESEA flexibility…”

The state Senate rejected a bill on a 19-28 vote in February that would have made changes to the state’s evaluation system. The sponsor of that bill, Republican Sen. Steve Litzow, said the loss of the waiver is “not at all a surprise given legislative Democrats refusal to comply with the very requirements we signed up for.”

Superintendent Dorn supported making student progress a factor in teacher evaluations. “Unfortunately the teacher’s union felt it was more important to protect their members than agree to that change and pressured the Legislature not to act,” Dorn said in a statement.

Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson said the No Child Left Behind law is “ineffective,” and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle “were not willing to risk our kid’s futures for policies that don’t work.”

“Our evaluation system was designed for Washington and it works for Washington’s kids and their teachers and principals,” Nelson said.

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