Although Wednesday was the early deadline for states to indicate interest in applying for waivers from No Child Left Behind regulations, it appeared California wasn't among states jumping at the chance.
Tom Torlakson, California superintendent of public instruction, was on the road and didn't plan to issue a statement on the state's plans Wednesday, according to his communications department. Last month, Torlakson was not enthusiastic about the Obama administration's offer of a waiver from the federal law -- which includes strict sanctions for low-performing schools -- if states agree instead to enact tough reforms.
"Nothing has changed," said Tina Jung, California Department of Education spokeswoman.
When the U.S. Department of Education unveiled its offer, Torlakson said the reform requirements -- which include implementing college and career-ready standards, linking student test results to teacher and principal evaluations, and identifying persistent achievement gaps that need to be closed -- could cost billions of dollars the state doesn't have.
Instead, Torlakson urged Congress to press forward with a new Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which would replace No Child Left Behind.
U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., have drafted a rewrite of the secondary education act, which could replace the need for waivers if it is enacted quickly. Arne Duncan, the U.S. secretary of Education, signaled early
Still, it was unclear whether the draft would garner enough support needed to win approval. Early reactions showed some Congressional leaders wanted to amend portions of the draft. States have until Nov. 14 to apply for the first round of waivers and can submit second round applications by mid-February.
Those that don't apply will continue to be held to the sanctions of No Child Left Behind, which require them to spend more federal money on teacher training, bus students to higher-performing schools, reform school governance and offer student interventions.
The California Teachers Association continues to oppose a waiver for the state, spokesman Mike Myslinski said Wednesday.
"We're concerned that the waiver process would replace one set of federal top-down mandates for another," he said.
Arun Ramanathan, director of the Oakland-based civil rights advocacy group Education Trust-West, said he doesn't buy California's excuses for not seeking the waiver.
"Frankly, I find them pathetic," he said. "I think that the opportunity that the federal government is providing California right now is an extraordinary one.
"And it's just the kind of local flexibility and authority that our state has been crying for in terms of rethinking our systems -- both for tracking school performance, but also for providing school supports and interventions when needed -- and provides a tremendous amount of flexibility for federal dollars."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.