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Trump Administration Set to Publish Flood of Obama-Era ESEA Waivers

If you're one of those edu-geeks that loves both Elementary and Secondary Education Act waivers and the Federal Register, Friday is your lucky day. 

The Trump administration is publishing information about more than 800 waivers from the law granted by the U.S. Department of Education to state education agencies from 2011 to 2016. That's during the time when the Obama administration controlled the department.

Given that time frame, the waiver decisions most likely will apply to the now-defunct No Child Left Behind Act, and not the Every Student Succeeds Act, the spanking-new law that replaced it.

Why are we reading about NCLB-era waivers now? Because the details of the waivers were supposed to have been formally published in the Federal Register when they were actually granted, but the previous administration didn't release them. (The department did, however, publish states' comprehensive NCLB waivers and many of the letters detailing the back-and-forth over those plans elsewhere on its website. It's not clear all of the information in this new waiver-dump was included.) 

Here's a snippet from Friday's Federal Register notice:

The ESEA requires that the Department publish in the Federal Register, and disseminate to interested parties, a notice of its decision to grant a waiver of statutory or regulatory requirements under the ESEA.  Between 2011 and 2016, the Department granted more than 800 waivers of statutory or regulatory requirements to State educational agencies (SEAs) but neglected to comply with the ESEA's publication and dissemination requirements.  This notice is intended to fulfill the Department's obligation to publicize its waiver decisions by identifying the waivers granted during each calendar year. 

Or to put it a little more simply: "The law requires the public to be notified when waivers are granted, and the public was denied that opportunity in this case," a department spokesman said in an email. "This action is about good governance and transparency."

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