Education Law Center (ELC) voiced strong objection to the NJ Department of Education’s (NJDOE) additional request to the federal government for a waiver of requirements under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).
The latest waiver request includes a proposal to “de-couple” federal Title I funding from the “rank order” of school district poverty. In other words, NJDOE proposes to distribute federal entitlement money to New Jersey’s poorest schools on the basis of the Department’s new accountability system and not solely on the basis of poverty levels. Higher poverty schools could lose funds to less poor schools, even though the impact of this redistribution has not been examined.
Title I, part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) first passed in 1965, provides non-competitive grants to states to be distributed to school districts that qualify. The purpose of this federal funding is to improve the academic achievement of at-risk students.
In comments submitted to the U.S. Education Department, ELC expressed “grave concern” over NJDOE’s waiver application, pointing out that schools with a high percentage of poor students would “suffer greatly” as a result of decreased resources. The comments also charged that NJDOE’s proposal is an “attempt to steal from the poor,” adding that reducing the level of federal funds to New Jersey’s poorest schools is all the more unjust since the State has already drastically cut aid to these districts and is threatening further significant cuts.
“It is counter-intuitive to deprive struggling schools of federal funding designed to provide additional resources for disadvantaged students,” said ELC’s senior attorney Ruth Lowenkron, who authored ELC’s waiver comments. “New Jersey’s most indigent children in our most indigent schools already suffer enough indignities; the State should immediately withdraw this poorly thought-out waiver request.”
ELC also took issue with the procedural lapses associated with NJDOE’s waiver request, noting that NJDOE presented no studies regarding the waiver’s potential effects on the state’s poorest children and schools.
In addition, ELC charged that the Department failed to provide adequate notice of its proposed waiver request and failed to provide a reasonable opportunity for the public to comment on the request. ELC’s statement noted that the “Request for Public Comment” was not published in the New Jersey Register, only provided a one-paragraph summary of the waiver request, did not discuss the NCLB requirements for waiver requests, and only allowed the public “approximately” two weeks to provide comments.
Policy and Outreach Coordinator
973-624-1815, x 24
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications