Oklahoma Loses NCLB Waiver After Repealing Common Core

The US Department of Education (DOE) has reversed Oklahoma’s waiver from the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act, making the state the second to lose its reprieve because of its decision to repeal Common Core standards.

Indiana, the other state in that category, will receive a one-year extension of the waiver it was given because it found an appropriate replacement for the Common Core, according to Caitlin Emma, writing for Politico.

This means that Oklahoma, with children already in school, will have to phase in some of the requirements of NCLB that the state had been exempted from when the waiver was in effect. The state must provide tutoring services and public school options by the 2015-2016 school year.  But schools that are under-performing will have to begin the process this school year.

 “It is outrageous that President [Barack] Obama and Washington bureaucrats are trying to dictate how Oklahoma schools spend education dollars,” Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin said in a statement. “Because of overwhelming opposition from Oklahoma parents and voters to Common Core, Washington is now acting to punish us. This is one more example of an out-of-control presidency that places a politicized Washington agenda over the well-being of Oklahoma students.”

Those states that requested a waiver were required to institute college- and career-ready standards if avoidance of some of NCLB’s requisites were expected.  Most states with waivers chose to implement the Common Core standards.

Fallin initially supported the Common Core and then signed a bill in June which repealed the standards.  Instead the state returned to its former academic standards, the Oklahoma Priority Academic Student Skills standards (PASS).  Although the State Regents for Higher Education were asked to decide whether the PASS standards were rigorous enough, they failed to do so before the state applied for a waiver extension. The state has not yet written new standards.

Yanking the waiver means that most Oklahoma schools must have 100% of students performing at grade level in math and reading by this school year, determined by last year’s test results.  Schools that fall short may face total staff restructuring or state takeover of the school in question.  The state will also have to use about $29 million in federal Title I funding dollars to pay for tutoring and school choice.

KFOR TV reported that Janet Barresi, state superintendent of schools, stated that the total amount of federal DOE funding that comes to Oklahoma is $372,841,126.

KWTV reporter Alex Cameron says the reason that Oklahoma dropped the Common Core was because they were “at their heart, an attempt by the federal government to take over local schools“.

“This decision should not come as a surprise,” said Amber England, executive director of Stand for Children Oklahoma, an education advocacy group, “as lawmakers were warned multiple times that the votes to repeal Oklahoma’s rigorous standards would lead down this road. Instead…[leadership] decided to place election year politics before students.”

Because Oklahoma students are already attending school, federal officials will give Oklahoma a grace period before having to meet some of the standards, like providing free tutoring and allowing students attending low-performing schools to transfer to better-performing schools, writes Lyndsey Layton of The Washington Post.

Reporting for Oklahoma Watch, Nate Robson says that Barresi stated that the Obama administration put money and politics before the education of Oklahoma students.  Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Robert Neu said he was not surprised that the state lost its waiver.

“Simply put, this is bad for our children,” Neu said in a written statement. “Oklahoma City’s educators are committed to making sure each of our students reaches his or her full potential, and I know that our talented and committed staff will continue to serve our children.”

NCLB imposed a seven-year timeline for schools to meet federal benchmarks. Corrective actions could be forced on schools that fail to achieve those benchmarks. In year one, one of those actions could be notifying parents that their children’s school is failing.  In year five, restructuring of a failing school.  Year seven  could bring a takeover of a school by the state Department of Education.  Linda Hampton, president of the Oklahoma Education Association disagrees with Rep. Jason Nelson (R-Oklahoma City), who helped draft the bill that repealed the Common Core.

“Lawmakers like Rep. Nelson were willing to flip a coin to see if we would lose our waiver by repealing Common Core,” Linda said. “They lost the flip.”