Monday, September 05, 2005

The Spellings Report: Hurricane Katrina & The Dept. Of Ed.

Department of Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has issued a statement regarding the victims of Hurricane Katrina. This is the section of her statement that really grabbed my attention as I was reading: (emphasis added)
The Department is examining ways to redirect existing funds toward relief efforts.

Student loan borrowers living in affected areas may delay payments on their loans without penalty.

Deadlines for a number of higher education programs have been extended until at least December 1, 2005.

Colleges and universities are encouraged to admit students from affected institutions in a way that ensures these students receive federal student aid.

On a case-specific basis, the Department will relax certain reporting provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act for affected states.

The Department is working closely with Congress to best meet the needs of children, families and schools affected by this tragedy.

I applaud the Secretary's willingness to allow students to delay repayment of their loans, but as a public school teacher the remarks that concern me most are these that were buried far down in the much-larger (see above link) statement's text: "On a case-specific basis, the Department will relax certain reporting provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act for affected states."

I'd heard on one of the Sunday morning talk shows that the provisions of NCLB were still in effect, even for those schools that are receiving massive numbers of refugees from Hurricane Katrina. The Secretary's statement would tend to comfirm that the modification of NCLB applies only to "certain reporting provisions" and not to "performance."

MSM article wire copy quotes Deputy Secretary of Education Ray Simon as saying "You can be assured that the red tape will be put in the drawer." The piece is mainly concerned with easing the papework needed to enroll students, but did offer this interesting tidbit regarding NCLB:
In response, the Education Department told school chiefs in Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas that they could expect fast, streamlined relief. Those state leaders are still figuring out what kind of help they will seek, but they are expected to jump on the department's offer to consider waivers under the No Child Left Behind Act.
Even though the article is short on details, it is my opinion that in the end, the Department of Education will probably be pressured (by Congress?) to relax several performance provisions of NCLB, at least temporarily, as schools throughout the south are working to meet the overwhelming challenges caused by the sudden influx of students from the hurricane-affected areas.
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