State Board generous with waivers in 2018

State Board generous with waivers in 2018

(Calif.) Local educational agencies in California petitioned the state board for relief from state law 288 times in 2018 and won approval nearly 75 percent of the time.

The California State Board of Education has authority to waive almost any section of the Education Code when no other remedy can be found.

The number of waivers last year was down from 2017, when LEAs submitted 416 applications.

With the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act by Congress in 2015, states were also given authority to consider first any request from a LEA to waive federal law before passing the request on to the U.S. Department of Education.

Last year, the SBE considered 14 federal waivers.

The variance from one year to the next is typically the result of some new challenge that almost all school districts are facing or are no longer facing.

The recent high points for the number of waivers issued to schools came during and immediately after the 2008 recession when school managers struggled to keep classrooms open let alone meet all of the state’s mandates for service and policy.

In 2010, for instance, the SBE considered 1,243 waiver requests and approved 1,079.

Among the more common waivers that LEAs sought last year was to be excused from the requirement to provide special education students extended class time after the end of an academic year. A total of 36 waivers were submitted for relief from the extended school year mandate.

Another frequently requested waiver within the special education program was the requirement that schools provide educational interpreters for deaf and hard of hearing students. Thirteen of these requests were made last year.

Combined, special education account for 81 waiver requests.

The requirement that schools maintain a schoolsite council drew 52 waiver requests last year—many of them coming from districts in rural areas where it is often difficult to find all the parents needed to fill out the panel.

The election of district board members has also been the source of many waivers in recent years. Under the 2002 California Voting Rights Act, districts that elect their members “at large,” rather than by a specified area, could face a court challenge.

Since the law changed, 180 school districts sought a waiver from this requirement. Last year, 18 districts made the same request.

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