What is the Cost of Not Extending the NCLB Waiver?

Board-of-EducationOn July 17, the Utah State Board of Education met to discuss whether to extend the  No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver, or the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Waiver. It allows Utah to avoid certain aspects of NCLB while still receiving federal dollars for education.

I recommend reading Karen Peterson’s treatment of the topic (here) for a more full overview, though I am not yet decided that I agree with her conclusions.

The Board will vote on August 8 whether to extend the waiver.

If the waiver is ditched–that is, if the Board declines to renew the one-year waiver–what would the cost be?

44podestaDuring his presentation on the pros and cons of not renewing the waiver, Board Member Dave Thomas noted that failure to renew the waiver would remove flexibility to spend $26.5 million in education funding from the federal government, or less than 1%.

It’s a pretty small bit for all the hoopla.

Thomas suggested the Board might go to the Legislature in a special session to request that funding. The Governor’s representative at the Board meeting declined to represent whether the Governor was ready to do as much.

According to sources close to the Board, if Utah were to operate under the No Child Left Behind, rather than a Department of Education contract (the ESEA waiver), there would be no loss of funds, but rather a reallocation of federal dollars. Instead of the flexibility to spend the money where Utah wants, the money would be mark for specific purposes.

  • Approximately, $7.6 million would go to professional development (read “teacher training”) within Title I schools. It’s hard to find
  • Approximately $15.6 million would need to be set aside for some combination after school programs and transportation for students at failing Title I schools to attend other schools.

At the end of the year the unused amounts–if there are any unused amounts–the remaining money rolls over to next year, rather than being sent back to Washington.

According to some, these numbers are much smaller than what many have claimed, and they are worst-case scenarios for this year (which would be the first year under NCLB without a waiver, and also the most difficult year to predict).  They are much smaller than the  $400+ million often used, which represents a magnitude of all federal public education dollars, not Title I program size implicated by NCLB.

However high or low the financial impact, it would require the Board to go to the Legislature, hat in hand, and ask for “one-time” supplemental spending (is anything ever “one-time”?).  Legislative approval of such a request would be a net add to educational spending and could soften the immediate disruption of having less control over some uses of federal funds.

Previously posted at Publius Online. Related articles

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