Washington has become the first state in the country to lose its waiver from many requirements of the federal education law known as No Child Left Behind.
The U.S. Department of Education posted a letter regarding the status of Washington’s waiver Thursday.
Gov. Jay Inslee called the news “disappointing but not unexpected.”
Over the last few weeks, state education officials have been telling school districts to prepare their budgets under the assumption that the waiver would be revoked.
The loss will affect public-school districts in two ways: They will lose control of how they spend a portion of their federal funding (roughly $40 million statewide); and many could be declared failing and possibly subject to remedies as extreme as state takeover or replacement of most of the staff.
Earlier this year, Inslee and Randy Dorn, state superintendent of public instruction, failed to persuade state lawmakers to make the use of student scores on statewide tests a mandatory component of teacher evaluation — an Obama administration requirement for states seeking waivers. Under Washington state law, the use of those scores is optional.
Dorn blamed the state teachers’ union for the loss of the waiver:
Student progress should be one of multiple elements in a teacher’s evaluation. Unfortunately the teacher’s union felt it was more important to protect their members than agree to that change and pressured the Legislature not to act.
The teachers’ union also issued a statement Thursday supporting the Legislature’s decision:
Members of the Washington Education Association believe the Washington Legislature did the right thing last session when it rejected Duncan’s inflexible and bureaucratic demands. Republicans and Democrats alike saw that Duncan’s failed federal mandates would have done nothing to help Washington’s students or their teachers, but rather would have imposed failed federal law on our students.
Forty-two other states also have received waivers, including Illinois just last week.