Some members question NCLB waiver request


Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration plans to move forward with its application for a No Child Left Behind Act waiver, but some lawmakers questioned a lack of legislative input into the process.

Department of Education officials briefed members of the House Education Finance Committee on their plans to submit a request for a waiver. Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said Minnesota schools should be exempted from the controversial law’s “failed measures of school accountability and interventions.”

 “Minnesota is not seeking a pass on accountability,” Cassellius said. “What we are seeking is meaningful accountability that gives us a true picture of how our schools are serving every student.”

Cassellius said the waiver application will spell out the state’s own plan to improve schools’ performance and close the achievement gap among students. She added that 38 other states plan to apply for waivers this year.

Some committee members said they are concerned that legislators don’t have enough input into the process. Officials working on the waiver request have been getting input from a working group that includes two state legislators, but Rep. Keith Downey (R-Edina) said he thinks lawmakers should have greater involvement than that.

“I’m really fearful that we’re going to walk into the legislative session next year feeling like we need to rewrite or rethink a lot of what the (Dayton) administration is fairly unilaterally implementing,” Downey said.

Rep. Mindy Greiling (DFL-Roseville) said the process worked similarly under Gov. Tim Pawlenty, when DFL lawmakers had concerns about that administration’s application to the federal “Race to the Top” program. She blamed Congress for failing to reform No Child Left Behind.

“The real shame here is that Congress hasn’t acted and gotten something to the president so that we aren’t left to this waiver process,” Greiling said.