President Barack Obama on Thursday declared that New Jersey and nine other states are free from the federal No Child Left Behind education law, allowing them to avoid some of the more unpopular and rigorous mandates.
In exchange, New Jersey and the other states are promising higher standards and more inventive ways to measure what students are learning.
At the White House, Obama said he acted because the Republican-controlled Congress had failed to update the law despite widespread agreement it needs to be fixed.
"We've offered every state the same deal," the president said. "If you're willing to set higher, more honest standards than the one ones that were set by No Child Left Behind, then we're going to give you the flexibility to meet those standards."
Republicans have charged that by granting waivers, Obama was overreaching his authority. The action by Obama is one of his most prominent in an ongoing campaign to act on his own where Congress is rebuffing him.
Republican Gov. Chris Christie ignored the GOP criticism of Obama and said the approval of New Jersey’s waiver application shows federal endorsement for what he describes as his “bold and aggressive education reforms.”
The governor said the approval demonstrates that his education proposals are not only comprehensive and ambitious in aiming to turn around failing public schools and deliver a quality education to every student, but are part of a national, bipartisan reform movement being pursued by the Obama administration and states around the country.
“We are once again proving that New Jersey is leading the way on the issues that matter most to our children’s future and our shared future as a state and nation,” Christie said. “The Obama administration’s approval of our education reform agenda contained in this application confirms that our bold, common sense, and bipartisan reforms are right for New Jersey and shared by the president and (U.S. Education) Secretary Duncan’s educational vision for the country. This is not about Democrats or Republicans - it is about pursuing an agenda in the best interest of our children whose educational needs are not being met, and those who are getting a decent education but deserve a great one.”
No Child Left Behind was mainly designed to help the nation's poor and minority children and was passed a decade ago with wide bipartisan support. It has been up for renewal for four years but lawmakers have been stymied by disagreements over how much of a federal role there should be in schools and, in Congress, partisan gridlock.