So, Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, is less than thrilled with the response from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to his request for more information about the department's plan to give states leeway on parts of the No Child Left Behind Act in exchange for signing onto a package of reforms-to-be-named-later.
Here's Duncan's response. To summarize, if you expected the department to provide Kline & Co. with a thorough, detailed explanation of the waiver proposal, you'll be sorely disappointed.
The letter lays out the rationale for the waiver plan (the law is overdue for reauthorization, states are clamoring for an update, the vast majority of the nation's schools will be identified as failing). And, in response to Kline's query on the legality of waivers, Duncan cites a section of the law that gives the department flexibility to waive requirements if it will help boost student achievement and improve instruction. (This is the same response he's been giving to reporters.)
But, even though Kline asked for details, the letter doesn't say just what these waivers will look like. It also doesn't say when the waiver plan will be finalized, how waiver requests will be reviewed, or when the waivers would become effective—all questions that Kline wanted answered.
Duncan says that the department will be asking states, districts, and schools for feedback on the plan. And he says he'd welcome any input from Kline and Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif, who oversees the subcommittee on K-12 policy and also signed on to letter asking Duncan for information.
But Kline clearly doesn't think this response makes the grade.
"It is disappointing the secretary continues to elude questions about his plan that 'trades regulatory flexibility for reform'," said Kline's spokeswoman, Alexandra Sollberger. "Instead of touting murky alternatives, the secretary should lend his support to the House Education and the Workforce Committee's ongoing efforts to advance targeted education legislation."