LEAs needed fewer waiver requests in 2016

LEAs needed fewer waiver requests in 2016

(Calif.) School districts requested less than 300 waivers last year from state education requirements, continuing a four-year trend, according to a new report from the California Department of Education.

The California State Board of Education has authority to grant a waiver to Local Educational Agencies for most requirements of the Education Code, requests that typically are handled toward the end of the board’s bi-monthly meetings.

The recent high water mark was reached in 2013 when the board considered 560 waiver requests and approved 501 of them. In 2014, the total number of applications fell to 429, of which 385 were approved.

In 2015, the board considered 314 requests and approved 267 and last year number of waiver applications falling to 288 with 256 being approved.

The most common petition for relief in 2016 was from districts that were unable to meet state requirements that instructional minutes at each school site be the same. Fifty districts needed a waiver after failing to meet this obligation, most of them due to problems related to new transitional kindergarten classes.

The next most common waiver item in 2016 was related to school site councils. State law requires district to have councils that meet minimum composition depending on the size of the LEA. Thirty-nine districts needed a waiver last year from the council requirements, most of them given to small, rural districts allowing them to combine site panels.

Other frequent waivers from 2016:

District Board Elections: Nine LEAs received waiver allowing district board elections to be changed from an ‘at-large’ selection to the ‘trustee-area’ concept. Without the waiver, the process to change how trustees are elected would require voter approval and potentially leave the district vulnerable to civil rights litigation.

Special Education: Two key service requirements for students with disabilities generated 65 waivers last year—one that educational interpreters meet certain professional standards; and secondly, summer programs for special education.

The state upgraded mandates that interpreters working with students that have hearing problems more than six years ago but some district—especially those in rural areas—continue to struggle to meet the new training level. Although the board has been sympathetic to this problem in the past, the oversight panel approved four of six requests, rejecting one and with one withdrawn.

Twenty-six LEAs sought board permission to adjust required summer school instruction to students with disabilities, many of them to run the program for fewer days but longer hours per day.