The federal government reinstated Oklahoma’s waiver from No Child Left Behind (NCLB) restrictions this week, restoring the state’s flexibility to use $29 million in public school funding.
The restoration of the waiver comes following a battle between the U.S. Department of Education (USED) and Oklahoma, in the wake of the state’s repeal of the Common Core standards and new law that returned its public schools to its former PASS standards.
As Breitbart News reported in August, USED essentially punished the state for its repeal of the controversial Common Core, making it the second state — after Indiana — to lose its waiver from the burdensome NCLB federal law. Since, save for a few tweaks, Indiana merely “rebranded” the Common Core as its own standards, its waiver was extended for one year.
The battle over the Oklahoma waiver underscores the stronghold the federal government now has over states since their adoption of the Common Core standards. Though proponents of the nationalized education initiative have asserted the standards are “voluntary” and “state-led,” states that adopted “college- and career-ready standards” in math and English Language Arts that are “common to a significant number of states” or “certified by a state network of institutions of higher education” avoided NCLB requirements.
As Fox News notes, Oklahoma officials filed a 139-page appeal with USED, in which they demonstrated their PASS standards were able to serve as a substitute for the Common Core standards.
USED spokeswoman Dorie Nolt, however, said, “Oklahoma was unable to demonstrate that its students are learning high standards this year, which the state committed to do under its ESEA [NCLB] flexibility request.”
Nevertheless, USED granted the waiver to the Sooner State on Monday.
Gov. Mary Fallin (R), who, despite serving as chairperson of the National Governors Association, one of the copyright owners of the Common Core Standards, signed her state’s repeal measure in June, issued a statement regarding the restoration of the state’s NCLB waiver.
“The Oklahoma State Department of Education and Oklahoma schools should be afforded the maximum amount of flexibility when using federal dollars,” Fallin said. “Restoring Oklahoma’s NCLB waiver is the correct decision and will help us get more money in the classroom.”
Regarding the restoration of the waiver, Oklahoma State Rep. Jason Nelson (R) said in a statement, “The U.S. Department of Education had only one choice – restore Oklahoma’s NCLB flexibility waiver. With certification by the State Regents for Higher Education in mid-October that the PASS standards are college- and career-ready, the department had to reverse course.”
“The truth is, the waiver should have been restored prior to the mid-term elections,” Nelson continued. “The waiver process is unnecessarily political, as were the erroneous claims made by groups like the OEA and Stand for Children.”
“I’m pleased that we’ve not governed based on political sound bites from education special interest groups that are busy spreading misinformation and fear,” he added. “That clearly would have been the wrong course in this instance, and I don’t believe it has served the children of Oklahoma well before now.”
Since the Common Core standards were repealed in Oklahoma, Nelson has maintained that special interest groups that support the standards have fueled the fear that the state had lost federal education funding.
“As I have stated from the start, federal education funding in Oklahoma has not been at risk,” he said, and added:
Sound leadership in the Legislature has resulted in a comprehensive review and certification of our PASS Standards and a new, permanent process to create new standards that includes the three legs of our state’s education stool: common education, career technology education and higher education. This should have been done decades ago.
Jenni White, parent organizer of Restore Oklahoma Public Education (R.O.P.E.), wrote at her group’s Facebook page, “It just galls me that our Oklahoma leadership will say — almost in a single breath — how they detest federal government intervention in Oklahoma education, but then laud the return of our waiver!”
“How does getting a federal waiver from mandates Oklahoma should not have to follow (according to the Constitution) in the first place constitute getting ‘…the federal government’s politics’ out of the way?” White asked. “The entire federal education ‘reform’ agenda is NOTHING BUT politics.”
“Parents should be mortified, frankly, at the education ‘reform’ measures being thrust upon our state from on high,” she added. “School administrators and state leaders may be happy Oklahoma was issued a pass to go back under control of the federal government, but parents and students cannot possibly be.”