By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Gov. Bill Haslam’s request for a federal waiver on gasoline standards is a first major test of his campaign pledge to recuse himself from issues that could affect the family-owned chain of Pilot Flying J truck stops.
An explosion at the Valero refinery in Memphis earlier this month led to concerns about gas shortages in the city, one of the country’s largest freight distribution hubs. Valero is also Pilot’s largest fuel supplier in the Memphis area.
The Republican governor told The Associated Press on Friday that he delegated the decision about requesting a fuel standards waiver to his deputy, Claude Ramsey.
“Obviously as governor I can’t just totally abdicate my responsibilities,” Haslam said in an interview outside his Capitol office. “But because I knew that somebody like you someday would ask a question, I said find out the right answer, talk to the local folks as well as our (Department of Environment and Conservation) people and come up with the right answer.”
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today cited Tennessee as an example of a state that has “done a great job” in setting education standards and deserving of a waiver from No Child Left Behind.
Duncan’s comments came in a telephone news conference with reports around the nation to outline his general plans for granting waivers to NCLB. Specifics will be provided next month, he said, and the process of granting approvals will begin shortly thereafter.
While he stopped short of specifically saying Tennessee would be granted a waiver, Duncan came pretty close.
“We look forward to partnering with Tennessee,” the secretary said, adding that he had ” talked with Gov. Bill Haslam, recently returned from a trip to Afghanistan.
Haslam and state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman said last week that Tennessee had become the first state in the nation to apply for a waiver from NCLB standards, established under a federal law enacted at the urging of former President George Bush.
About half of Tennessee’s schools failed to meet current NCLB standards under testing results, also announced last week. Under NCLB, those standards are scheduled to continue rising. As now written, states have until 2014 to achieve 100 percent proficiency in all tested subjects plus a 90 percent graduation rate.
Duncan said President Obama has pushed for federal legislation to change NCLB, but has directed him to proceed with a waiver program because Congress has made little or no progress on the legislative front. He said the president remains committed to addressing NCLB changes at the federal level.
Duncan said Tennessee had “dumbed down” its state=level standards in the past and had declared 91 percent of the state’s students proficient in math. Subsequently, he said Tennessee raised standards – a move initiated under former Gov. Phil Bredesen’s administration – and now shows just 34 percent proficiency in math.
“Tennessee like many states (had been) dumbing down standards to make it seem like students are doing wel,” Duncan saidl. “They were telling their state that 91 percent of their children were proficient in math.
“Tennessee, like about 44 other states, recently raised standards, and when they raised standards, they went from saying they were 91 percent proficient in math to 34 percent proficient in math.
“That’s a very tough message. But guess what? It’s the truth. And we need to reward those states that are showing courage there and give them the room to move.”
At another point, he was asked about Tennessee’s prospect for getting a waiver.
“I think Tennessee has done an amazing job of really making tough calls and showing courage, so we’re very, very hopeful,” he said “I actually talked to your governor this weekend – he had just returned from Afghanistan – and we will review all of the waivers at the same time.
“Once we put out the final package, in early to mid-September, we’ll look at Tennessee’s and everyone else’s. But Tennessee has done a great job, … and we look forward to partnering with Tennessee moving forward as part of this process.”
Note: A U.S. Department of Education news release on NCLB is HERE.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee’s request for a waiver to use its reformed education standards to measure schools instead of those mandated by No Child Left Behind is falling in line with a plan by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
Duncan says he will announce a new waiver system Monday to give schools a break from student testing mandates in the federal law.
Gov. Bill Haslam announced his request last month. State officials said at the time they didn’t know what the response would be.
Duncan has warned that 82 percent of U.S. schools could be labeled failures next year if No Child Left Behind is not changed. Education experts have questioned that estimate, but state officials report a growing number of schools facing sanctions under the law.
Duncan is scheduled to be in Nashville this week for a round table discussion with school administrators in rural counties.
Joint news release from Tennessee Congressional Delegation:
WASHINGTON – Members of the Tennessee U.S. congressional delegation announced today that they have sent a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan supporting Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s request for a waiver of the provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, commonly known as No Child Left Behind.
The full text of the letter, dated July 29, 2011, and signed by Senators Alexander and Corker and Representatives Roe, Duncan, Fleischmann, DesJarlais, Cooper, Black, Blackburn, Fincher and Cohen, follows.
Tennessee will be the first state in the nation to seek a waiver from the performance standards set in the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which Gov. Bill Haslam says has “outlived its usefulness” as presently written.
Haslam and state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman told reporters that they would prefer that Congress revise the law, enacted a decade ago at the urging of then-President George W. Bush.
Given the current environment in Washington, Haslam said “that doesn’t seem likely anytime soon” and he has decided to proceed with a waiver request to the U.S. Department of Education.
Announcement of the state’s move coincided with release of the “annual yearly progress” reports for Tennessee schools. The reports show about half of Tennessee schools currently falling short of current NCLB standards.
Under NCLB, those standards are scheduled to continue rising. As now written, states have until 2014 to achieve 100 percent proficiency in all tested subjects – based on state-administered tests — plus a 90 percent graduation rate.
Huffman said the “vast majority” of Tennessee schools would fail to meet the escalating standards next year
Acknowledging the “very real possibility” that many Tennessee schools cannot meet current federal “No Child Left Behind” standards, Gov. Bill Haslam said today that his administration may seek a waiver from federal officials.
Haslam said he is currently involved in “discussions on what those waivers might look like.” In an interview last week, he said he has worked with Sen. Lamar Alexander on the matter.
“So many schools are not going to meet the standards that something’s going to have to be done,” said Haslam.
President Obama has asked Congress to overhaul the law, but there has been no action. Haslam said in the earlier interview that things appear to be deadlocked in Washington.
Under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, enacted at the urging of former President George W. Bush, schools are measured by the progress students make on state tests. Those failing to show adequate progress for two consecutive years are designated as “failing,” and can ultimately lose federal funding.
Also, schools designated as failing must offer federally-approved after-school tutoring services and allow students to transfer to other schools while paying any costs involved.
Under NCLB, standards rise every three years. As now written, states have until 2014 to achieve 100 percent proficiency in all tested subject plus a 90 percent graduation rate.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has said he anticipates most schools nationwide will fail to meet those standards.