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Lawmakers Push for More NCLB Waiver Oversight

Two lawmakers want Congress to turn up the heat on U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and his department over implementation of waivers under the No Child Left Behind Act.

In a June 6 letter to Rep. John Kline, the chairman of the House education committee, Reps. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., and Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., complained that "post-waiver reality is not living up to the pre-waiver assurances that states gave to the department." (Hunter is the former House K-12 subcommittee chairman. McCarthy is the current ranking Democrat on that subcommittee.)

Specifically, they call out problems in Maryland, New Jersey, and New York. And, they say they are most concerned with the "assistance and supports" that students need to improve. That includes the lack of tutoring or "supplemental education services" that used to be provided routinely as part of NCLB.

The letter asks Kline to hold hearings to determine what actions the department is taking to closely monitor waiver assurances and the "plans, systems, and interventions" that states have undertaken—and what the feds will do to a state that fails to live up to its promises. (Kline's office didn't have a comment on the lawmakers' letter.)

This wouldn't be the first Congressional hearing about waivers. In February, the Senate education committee took a look at waiver implementation.

In addition, in April Kline and K-12 subcommittee chairman Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Ind., sent their own letter to Secretary Duncan asking for more information about waivers—from how many meetings feds and states are having to what the monitoring process is like. They sent similar letters to each state chief that had received as waiver, as well.

And in May, waivers came up during an ESEA hearing in the House.

Other individual members of Congress are using their own inquisition-by-letter strategy as well. For a look at how the Education Department has been responding, read this response from Deb Delisle, the top K-12 official at the federal department, to Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J.

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