Republicans demand report on education waivers

Republicans requested a government report on the Department of Education’s criteria for waiving Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) requirements.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and John Kline (R-Minn.) wrote to the Government Accountably Office on Tuesday asking for a report on how conditional ESEA waivers affect states and how waiver eligibility is determined.

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Alexander and Kline have criticized the Obama administration for changing legal requirements under ESEA — also known as No Child Left Behind — without congressional approval.

“In order to receive waivers, these states were required to comply with a new set of requirements, not authorized by Congress, related to standards and assessments, school accountability, and teacher and principal evaluation systems,” the letter states.

No Child Left Behind included testing requirements among other things in order for states to receive federal education funding, but because states have failed to meet such requirements waivers have been granted for 42 states and the District of Columbia.

In their letter, Alexander and Kline pointed out that states spend time and money filling out paperwork in order to get the waivers and yet Congress doesn’t know how the Department of Education uses that information provided in the applications.

“Congress has little information about how the department utilizes the data required of these and other states to grant, deny, renew, or revoke a state waiver,” the lawmakers wrote. “Additionally, Congress has little insight into how states are impacted by the time and cost associated with applying for and implementing these waiver requirements.”

Kline serves as chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee and Alexander is the ranking member of the Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee.