Education commissioner says Texas could lose NCLB waiver

Education Commissioner Michael Williams on Tuesday said Texas could very well lose its waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 if the state and federal government cannot resolve their differences over educator evaluations.

In a public interview at the annual Texas Association of School Administrators Midwinter Conference, Williams said Texas could go the way of California and “say keep your waiver,” while emphasizing the state has not lost it yet. Alternately, he said if Congress chooses to alter George W. Bush’s key signature domestic policy, as has been discussed for years, it could bode well for the Lone Star State.

“We’re having a conversation,” he said. “We have a different view point.”

Last week, Williams announced that the U.S. Department of Education had  rejected a new teacher and principal evaluation system Texas must successfully develop if it wants to keep its waiver. If the state loses the waiver, Williams noted more schools would be considered failing and the state would face the prospect of losing billions of dollars in federal education funding.

During the Tuesday interview, Williams also said he remains a supporter of voucher-type programs that give public school students state money to attend private schools. He said “everyone knows” he supported vouchers when working for the Bush administration in the 1990s and that he “continues to do so.”

Families “ought to have the opportunity to make decisions about where their youngsters go to school,” he said.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has vowed to push a voucher-type program through the Senate this session.

“Let’s wait and see what we they design,” Williams said of state lawmakers.