Finger-pointing, uncertainty abound for state education waiver

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INDIANAPOLIS — As the state works to respond to a federal challenge to its No Child Left Behind waiver, there’s a lot of finger-pointing going on.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Education put Indiana’s NCLB waiver on “conditional” status.

That status means the state has 60 days to respond to a report that found failures to properly comply with federal standards.

State Board of Education members, however, tell FOX59 that the Department of Education did not inform them of issues with the waiver until late April.

“My concern is I don’t know what they’re doing,” board member Dr. Brad Oliver said.

Indiana received its waiver in 2012, allowing it to opt out of some NCLB requirements. Most notably, it gives districts flexibility to spend federal dollars how they see fit.

If Indiana were to lose its waiver, districts could be forced to spend that money in other ways, leading to the the closure of programs and even the potential firing of extra teachers or aides.

“For the district I work for, we pay for interventionists to work with our at-risk kids as well as instructional coaches,” former IDOE administrator Lee Ann Kwiatkowski said.

Kwiatkowski, who first implemented No Child Left Behind in Indiana, said that if we lose our waiver, most schools would be considered failing and could face serious consequences.

I believe that it would be very serious if we lost our waiver,” Kwiatkowski said.

Department of Education spokesperson Daniel Altman, however, said that the issues cited in the report have largely been resolved. He said that the board had been informed and that the department is confident Indiana will not lose its waiver.

“They haven’t given us an indication that it’s going to be a result that we don’t want at the end of the day,” Altman said.

Transcripts from past board meetings show that the waiver was discussed, though not in length and not in relation to perceived problems in meeting federal requirements.

The Board of Education will hold a special meeting about the waiver at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday. You can find the meeting agenda here.

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