California weighs the hefty cost of NCLB relief

Staff Photojournalist

This fall, frustrated by the glacial pace of Congress in rewriting the decade-old No Child Left Behind Act, the U.S. Department of Education decided to go around it. The administration announced that until the law was revamped, it would grant states temporary relief from some of the act’s key provisions — such as the requirement for all students to be on track in reading and math by 2014 — if they agreed to adopt a set of school reforms.

But acquiring such relief could cost the state of California and its school districts well over $2 billion, even after potential savings are taken into account, California Department of Education staffers told the State Board of Education at a meeting today (For more detail on the CDE’s estimates, go to Item 5 on the previous link and open the Addendum document. The figures are listed on a chart on pages 8-14).

As I reported in September:

If California does apply for a waiver, it will have to rewrite a 40-year-old law that governs how teachers are evaluated in a way that satisfies the U.S. Department of Education’s standards. It will have to create a new accountability system that rewards the state’s best schools and helps the ones that are struggling the most, as well as schools with low graduation rates and the highest test score gaps between students of different backgrounds. It will also need to put in place new, national teaching standards designed to better prepare students for life after high school.

Some board members and public speakers said they were afraid California schools would go to great lengths and expense to receive a temporary waiver only to face a new set of rules when Congress finally reauthorizes the law.

NCLB, or the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, was due to be rewritten in 2007. Four years later, there’s some momentum on a bipartisan reauthorization bill. But, as Education Week reported yesterday, it’s running into some opposition from Republican lawmakers as well as Democratic school reform groups.

Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and 39 states have signaled their intent to apply for a waiver.  Should California join them?

Representatives from the California Teachers Association and the California State PTA came out against the waiver, saying it was costly and potentially more restrictive than the current law. The Association of California School Administrators urged the board to apply at the end of the school year if Congress hasn’t reauthorized NCLB by then. Education Trust-West spoke in favor as well.

The state board wasn’t scheduled to make a decision today, and its next meeting isn’t scheduled until January. So unless something changes, it’s unlikely California would apply before the February deadline. It possible it will apply in June.

Still, even if the application is submitted in June and a reprieve is granted, it’s unclear when it would kick in. The timeline posted on the USDOE website say states must apply in February to receive flexibility by the end of the school year.

What would you advise the state board to do?

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Katy Murphy

    I just saw this statement from State Superintendent Tom Torlakson:

    “I commend President Michael Kirst and members of the State Board of Education for their thoughtful discussion today, and their willingness to examine both the benefits and the costs associated with the extensive conditions California would have to meet to seek a waiver of the provisions of No Child Left Behind.

    “As a state, we are being asked to make wholesale changes that would affect the operation of every school—with very little time and no new resources—all to receive temporary respite from a law that, thankfully, Congress is in the process of rewriting.

    “I continue to believe that the best answer for addressing a bad law is to replace it with a good one. However, recognizing the immediate need for relief among so many schools, the State Board will continue to examine the option of applying for a waiver in a manner that reflects the state’s priorities, timetables, and budget constraints.”

  • Turanga_teach

    I honestly dare the government to apply the law as it currently stands, fall flat on its ass in attempting to do so, blush like mad and take it from there.

    Nobody is saying that NCLB’s gonna work: it’s just not believed that the waivers states are seeking “exempt” them from doing something they could otherwise actually do. This emperor’s stark raving naked, and I wish we’d spend less money on more orders for fake cloth.

  • Makeitgoaway

    The Feds are crazy like a fox. They are forcing change on recalcitrant unions by using Race to the Top and now NCLB waivers. Things have to change. Teachers cannot expect to continue in a system where only 1% get bad reviews and where they get constant pay increases despite poor results. Cry about it all you want, but this is necessary change.

  • Oakland Teacher

    “constant pay increases”? You have got to be kidding!

  • Trish Gorham

    Teachers in Oakland have received A TOTAL OF a 1.2% pay increase on the salary schedule from 2003-present.

  • Nextset

    Large pay cuts and benefit cuts are on the immediate horizon. This applies to all the municipalities. Only way to delay it is federal grants. Obambi can’t get that (municipal bailouts) through the republicians.

    We have not begun to see the fast reductions in the standards of living we are about to get in the next 36 months. Even by the 2012 presidential elections the bite will be strongly felt. The November elections for congress and the statehouses will be fun.

  • Gail

    Doesn’t teachers’ pay increase when they move up the salary scale though, due to years of service? For those of us in jobs where we don’t get automatic increases (and who don’t earn more than teachers despite comparable or greater levels of education), it looks like a pay increase.

  • J.R.

    The funny thing about the public sector is, when expected pay increases do not materialize or are scaled back, that is viewed as a cut in pay. I guess they are entitled(by virtue of time spent breathing)to the tax money irregardless of performance or circumstances. The productive taxpayers might want to think about refusing to deal with unions as long as they are obstinate enablers of mediocrity.

  • Nextset

    There will be real pay cuts in the form of employees paying for their own health insurance. Then cuts in retirement contributions. At least these are pre-tax. There will be fast and furious dimunitions in take home pay.That’s just for the moment. Larger cuts and more layoffs will follow.

  • http://sites.google.com/site/abernethymath/home Rori Abernethy

    “The productive taxpayers might want to think about refusing to deal with unions as long as they are obstinate enablers of mediocrity.”

    “Teachers cannot expect to continue in a system where only 1% get bad reviews and where they get constant pay increases despite poor results. Cry about it all you want, but this is necessary change.”

    My only response to all of this is that 65% of all California teachers are baby boomer and older.
    25% are generation X (born 1961 – 1981) and the remaining 10% are gen Y (born 1981 – 2001).
    50% of the gen Y’s quit withing 5 years.

    So the answers seem to be cutting pensions, laying off new teachers, forcing out old teachers, holding us more “accountable” and generally blaming teachers for all the problems in the educational system (as will as problems in the Middle East … and I think we were responsible for the earthquake in Japan also), instead of looking at the administrative and systematic problems and the long term problems with privately outsourcing public education.

    Two words for you in 5 – 10 years – Teacher Shortage.
    And then good luck with holding the few people left in teaching “accountable” for all the problems in this country.

    Believe it or not, we had to get degrees to do this job. I have one in math. If you keep pushing folks and telling them how much they and unions suck and are ruining the country, they will simply do something else. ANYTHING else will make us more money.

    And then you’ll all be complaining about that.

  • J.R.

    “Two words for you in 5 – 10 years – Teacher Shortage.
    And then good luck with holding the few people left in teaching “accountable” for all the problems in this country”.

    You are pointing the finger in the wrong direction on this one, those young teachers(most, if not all), who will be needed in 5-10 years have been canned by LIFO the union backed policy. Why do those young teachers quit? They quit because they are invariably given the worst schools, and the hardest grades to teach with the most difficult kids. Your union talking points are just falsehoods masquerading as fact. Unions suck as you put it because they serve only one purpose “to insulate,enrich and protect dues paying members without regard to competence”. As I have written so many times before, we were academically sliding down the tubes decades before the reform movement was even born. Many of the teachers that have dug the educational hole(who whined and complained will be gone collecting their pensions), many good teachers will still be left, but we will have a difficult time because we let LIFO destroy the new generation of young teachers.

  • Gordon Danning

    As far as salary goes:

    I believe that the 2005-2008 contract is still in effect. Under that contract, a 10 year veteran with a BA+60 units earned $53,400 in 06-07. Five years later, that same teacher makes $58,849 — a 10.2 percent increase. In that period, the consumer price index has gone from 202.9 (in June of 2006) to 225.7 (in June of 2011) ftp://ftp.bls.gov/pub/special.requests/cpi/cpiai.txt That is an 11.2 percent increase.

    Another way to look at it is that that teacher’s real salary, in 2006 dollars, is $52,904, a 1% decrease.

  • OUSD Parent

    People are going to have to step-up and start to pay more taxes. There seems to be a lot of talk about how we, the grown ups in this country, value children. Then when it comes to paying for services to support them, they throw a fit. It’s almost criminal how our public education system has slipped.

    Sure there are those kids who will navigate the chaos in our public schools and do well. But what about the rest of them? (What’s the high school drop out rate in Oakland?) And what about the educators who teach them? How can we, the adults, expect them to be successful in supporting our kids when they aren’t paid well and when they have so few resources and too many kids crammed in their classrooms?

    I’m simply a parent. I’m speaking as a parent. Not another educator or union member or politician. Just a parent. I want our teachers paid more. I want the bad ones gone because they make it hard on everyone else. And I think all adults need to grow up and do a better job supporting our youth.

    If OUSD did a better job managing its business, there wouldn’t be a proliferation of charter school or a flight from the district. Parents that have the means look for other options when the schools around them are flailing. Don’t blame the parents for finding the best opportunity for their children.

    I do not think it’s right that our teachers make so little. We should all be ashamed.

  • livegreen

    Does anybody else find it ironic that more families have steadily fled OUSD during ALMOST THE SAME EXACT PERIOD OUSD HAS SHOWN STEADY IMPROVEMENT?

    People have a tendency to react to both headlines and events AFTER they’ve happened, and not to the most recent events on the ground. Especially when schools overall at OUSD leave so much to be desired (they’re starting at a low bar), the POSITIVE things at OUSD schools often get ignored. They should not be.

    The fact that they are shows to some degree people are slow and stubborn in sticking to their negative opinions. A lack of self reflection on the part of some parents is a contributor. Maybe not all the parents who send their kids automatically to Private School are as intelligent as they think?

  • OUSD Parent

    Livegreen. I am an OUSD parent. My kids are in OUSD schools. I agree that there have been improvements which is why I’m still here. There are still many challenges though. Many of which have to do with the sheer lack of funding. We can do better for our children.

    Most of the families I know that send their kids to private schools, or move out of the area, would probably agree with you that their kids aren’t intellectually superior. It’s often the middle tier that is ignored. The super bright and motivated kids find what they need. Many of the kids that need extra help get it. It’s the middle of the pack that often doesn’t get what they need. Parent’s that flee often do so not because they think their children are superior. Rather they are concerned that that they will get lost in the shuffle and not get what they need to advance to the next level.

    OUSD is a large urban district with a student population with diverse needs. We’ve made it work. Many haven’t been able to. The parents I know that have “fled” have done so not because they felt superior but rather they felt desperate.

    If OUSD had more funding then they could provide opportunities for all of the kids and more support and $$$ for its teacher.

  • livegreen

    OUSD Parent, Just to be clear, I meant maybe the Parents are not as intelligent as they think.

    I agree with you on every point you’ve made. To back that up, I’ve repeatedly stressed that OUSD does not support the “middle tier”. In line with your comments, I think if they did they’d find a lot more retention and start turning around the #’s of departing families (also helping their financial base).

    OUSD has done a lot of emphasis on the Hills schools. More might need to be done, but that’s where the retention has increased & funding is going. As OUSD gets that settled it’s time to expand that to the “middle tier” schools, families & students who don’t have the same level of public OR private funding…

  • another interested parent

    The “hills” school my kids attend is pretty much ignored by OUSD. No extra funds or assistance or equipment or guidance of any kind. If it isn’t provided by the parents, this school doesn’t get it. So, Livegreen, when you state that OUSD funding is going to “hills” schools, please note that, at least at this one — that is not the case. And, I disagree with the comments made that OUSD is focused on the bright kids and the below proficient kids. The bright kids are absolutely left to their own devices. Anyone have any good experience with the GATE program? Is there even any kind of GATE program anymore? OUSD is focused on getting the below proficient kids up to proficient — because that is how to increase test scores the fastest. The kids in the middle and the top get very little focus or attention and that is really too bad and yet another reason that folks leave the system.

  • Kaiser parent

    #17, I concur. There’s a lot of backlash against the higher performing schools, including ours which is dubbed a “Hills” school though it serves a primarily flatland and slopes population. The truth us these schools get zero extra funding and are fortunate only through the parents rate of volunteering and supporting programs financially. Yes, that is a disparity. But attacking the so-called Hills schools will do absolutely nothing to better the Flatland schools.

  • livegreen

    I’m not attacking the Hills schools. & I agree, there are some Hills schools that are ignored, for example Grass Valley & Carl Munck (like Kaiser, both schools only serve a small % of Hills residents).

    All I’m saying is that Hills schools (like Flatland schools) have received comparatively more support from OUSD than the “between” or “Slope” schools. Importantly those Hills schools that pull from their neighborhoods (which I’ve acknowledged is not all) also have a higher income base to supplement their missing services with (just as any other wealthier school district does). So as low a bar as OUSD has in helping, these schools have more resources to help them deal with it.

    I agree that ALL schools, including Hills schools (even the comparatively wealthy ones) need assistance. Why? Because we need to retain those children and families to keep OUSD scores growing and help the tax base. We need a true “ecosystem” like other Communities & School Districts have. Helping one helps all.

    By the same token, pointing out that the schools in the Middle do not have the same resources is not “attacking” anybody. It’s acknowledging a reality (with certain exceptions) that need to be addressed.

  • On the Fence


    Can you describe the “comparatively more support” that ‘Hills’ schools receive from OUSD? I understand that many schools in the flatlands DO get more funding due to their student populations, however, I recall Katy publishing a list of the per pupil funding rates a few years back and many of the top performing ‘Hills’ schools received the least money (my vague recollection so it could be hazy). Yes, I understand that the ‘Hills’ schools often supplement with volunteer hours and parental donations, but I specifically want to know about the financial support that you say they are receiving from OUSD. BTW, I am not trying to prove you wrong, I truly just want to get a handle on this. In fact, I’d be interested in seeing the stats again about per pupil spending for our schools if Katy has any current data.

  • AH

    Livegreen, what do you mean when you say Hills schools have received comparatively more support from OUSD? I’m not disagreeing with you (because I don’t know either way), but I would love specific examples. It has been my impression that “Hills” schools have more resources due to their parent-led fundraising, not because OUSD is doing anything special for them.

  • another interested parent

    All I know is what I have seen at the “hills” school my kids attend. Their school does not seem to receive “comparatively more support from OUSD than ‘between’ or ‘Slope’ schools.” It receives only the bare minimum support required — the funds it has to provide from average daily attendance — and absolutely nothing more. There is a perception out there (as shown in Livegreen’s post) that “hills” schools are somehow taking more of OUSD’s energy, attention, and money than other schools, but I just haven’t seen it. Maybe folks would like to believe that because it is an easy scapegoat and provides an easy answer as to what is wrong in OUSD?

  • livegreen

    What I mean is there’s a large # of Hills elementary schools (at least the ones with high local attendance) that are having buildings & grounds redone or additions. Whereas there are very few in the “slope” or middle income schools.

    The middle income schools also have less parent-backed (PTA) fundraising than the Hills & less OUSD funding than the Flatlands. This makes it harder for these schools to both support the lower income families who Option in, while also building the academic support & high quality facilities that retain and attract families.

    It’s great that so much building is happening at the Hills schools (that Hills parents attend), but it’s time for it to be extended to schools that get equally less attention from OUSD + have less resources than the Hills schools.

    Re. Hills schools that don’t have the upper income/high neighborhood enrollment, they’re in the same camp as these middle income/slope schools.

  • oak261

    Livegreen: Look at the Facilities report from this randomly found Board meeting — sure doesn’t look like all the money is going to the hills.

  • livegreen

    I didn’t say it was all Hills schools. I said it was almost no Slope-Middle Income schools, esp. for Facilities. Instead it’s almost only for Hills & Flatland schools. Your link proves my point.