EDUCATIONAL FLEXIBILITY PROGRAM EXTENSION -- (House of Representatives - March 14, 2006)
I join my colleague in supporting S. 2363, a bill to extend the current Ed-Flex authority.
The Ed-Flex program was first established in 1994 through the Goals 2000 Act. I was chief sponsor of the bill and Bill Goodling of Pennsylvania was the author of the Ed-Flex language. This was part of an early effort to provide States with greater flexibility as they begin to implement education reform initiatives.
Ed-Flex addressed criticism that certain Federal education requirements stymied local education reform and allowed local school districts to apply to waive select education requirements.
In exchange for greater flexibility, the local school district must demonstrate improved academic performance. Twelve States were granted Ed-Flex authority in 1999. Ten States continue to have the authority: Colorado, Delaware, Kansas, Massachusetts, Maryland, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Vermont.
S. 2363 would extend Ed-Flex for these 10 States until Congress reauthorizes No Child Left Behind.
By extending this authority for these 10 States, local school districts in these States will not have to interrupt the measures they currently have in place.
In Maryland, this includes allowing school districts that receive title I funds to allow all the students in the school to take advantage of title I services, such as extra attention in reading, in writing for elementary school students.
In Massachusetts, seven school districts are using Ed-Flex authority to provide title I service to schools that previously had access to these services; but due to shifts in school populations, these schools were no longer eligible for these funds, even though the need still existed.
I am pleased that States have been responsible in approving waivers requested by the school districts. States have adhered to the law which prohibits certain waivers such as those affecting civil rights and maintenance of effort. These provisions are important and exist to maintain necessary protection for students and funding.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, let me also mention that the Department of Education has provided assurances that it will not allow States to waive compliance with a highly qualified teacher provision in No Child Left Behind. All States must be in compliance with this provision by the end of this school year.
The highly qualified teacher provision is critical to improving student academic performance. All children should have the benefit of a teacher who is certified in the subject area they teach. The highly qualified teacher provision in No Child Left Behind ensures that that will happen, and I appreciate the Department's oversight on this issue.
Mr. Speaker, this bill is well thought out and deserves the support of this House.