To the states out there that plan to disregard the No Child Left Behind Act, the Education Department says this: Not so fast.
Idaho, Montana, and South Dakota so far have notified the department that they do not plan to follow the federal accountability law, and instead will use their own accountability systems. But that's not going to fly, department officials say. If Congress does not rewrite the law, either Education Secretary Arne Duncan will enforce the existing law, which he has called "broken," or he will allow states to earn waivers in "exchange for reform." (That's plan B.) There is no plan C.
Spokesman Justin Hamilton said this today when I asked him about the states that plan to disobey the law: "We all agree NCLB is broken, and the best way to fix it is for Congress to send a bipartisan bill for the President to sign by the start of the school year. If Congress needs more time, our plan B would be to offer relief in exchange for reform to states who desperately want flexibility from NCLB's broken provisions. This will give all states the option of either complying with existing law, or participating in plan B. One way or another, we need to enforce the law or change it."
But states, and Congress, are still waiting for details on that supposed plan B. In fact, the department apparently didn't meet the July 1 deadline set by Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House education committee, to cough up more details on Duncan's waiver plan.
Hamilton said, "We are in touch with Rep. Kline's office about the letter and are working to get [a response] to them soon."