Late last week seven additional states, Puerto Rico and the Bureau of Indian Education submitted requests to the Department of Education seeking waivers from certain provisions of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. Based on the waiver requests, four states (Alaska, Maine, New Hampshire and West Virginia) did not check the box for the optional 11th waiver that allows 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) funds to be used to lengthen the school day, week or year. Alabama, Hawaii and North Dakota chose to opt-in to the 11th waiver. Waiver requests from Puerto Rico and the Bureau of Indian Affairs are not yet publicly available. While the latest waiver requests have not yet been approved, in all, 20 out of 32 states receiving waivers have checked the 21st CCLC box; 12 states along with Washington, D.C., have not. The six states that have not yet requested a waiver include: Montana, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont (request withdrawn) and Wyoming.
Given the potentially high cost of adding time to the school day, the optional 21st CCLC waiver provision could result in fewer communities having access to quality out-of-school programs, enlarging the already significant unmet demand for quality afterschool, before-school and summer learning programs across the country. The department initiated the waiver process last fall to give states flexibility from some of the mandates of the 10-year-old NCLB law in exchange for states implementing standards and accountability reforms. Guidance on how states may implement the 21st CCLC waiver has been slow to come, but the Department of Education did issue language clarifying that:
"a state must retain existing 21st CCLC requirements prioritizing school-community partnerships; and the programming provided through a longer school day, week, or year, must not be ‘more of the same’ but instead should involve careful planning by the eligible entity to ensure that the programs or activities will be used to improve student achievement and ensure a well-rounded education that prepares students for college and careers.”