Local school districts and state teaching organizations are reacting to the Texas Education Agency’s plans to seek a waiver from requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, and many educators appear to be cautiously optimistic about it.

The state’s new education commissioner, Michael Williams, announced the state’s intention to seek a waiver from certain requirements of the act in a letter to Texas school districts Thursday.

Williams, who replaced outgoing commissioner Robert Scott on Aug. 27, stated in the letter that waiving the requirements of the act would offer more flexibility at the state and district level.

“We applaud the commissioner for choosing to submit this waiver,” said Suzanne Marchman, a spokesperson for the Texas State Teachers Association. “I think it came as somewhat of a surprise, but it’s definitely a decision that’s good for Texas school districts and their students.”

Groups like the TSTA, which represents a large number of the state’s teachers, and district school boards and administrators across Texas, have been largely critical of No Child Left Behind.

Robert Muller, superintendent of the Killeen Independent School District, also said he was in favor of the state’s intent to submit a waiver.

“I support the state’s request for waiver of certain provisions within the NCLB legislation,” said Muller in a statement issued by the district Friday. “I am pleased that the state has recognized the fact that the incompatibility between the state and federal systems has reached a tipping point and adjustments are needed.”

While reactions from TSTA and the state’s districts appear to be positive, there may be some apprehension as to whether the federal government will actually grant the state’s request.

Texas will not seek the same waiver used by the 33 states that already have been approved for waivers through the U.S. Department of Education, but instead will ask for a “general” waiver from specific requirements in the act.

Instead of using waivers with language provided by the department, Texas will create its own, thus hoping to avoid having too many “strings” attached to its request, if granted.

Debbie Ratcliffe, a spokesperson for the Texas Education Agency, said there was no word from the department on whether they would grant a waiver.

“We hope that (the department) will give it a fair hearing, and grant us a waiver,” Ratcliffe said.

The department itself also did not comment on whether it would accept the waiver. A spokesman said the department would refrain from doing so before Texas actually submits the waiver for review.

Ratcliffe said the agency plans to submit its application in January or February, leaving districts like Killeen and organizations like the TSTA to wait for an answer from the federal government.

“We are very hopeful,” Marchman said.

Contact Chris McGuinness at chrism@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at ChrismKDH.

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