"We're not going to sit here and do nothing," Duncan said Friday in a conference call reported by The New York Times. "Our first priority is to have Congress rewrite the law. If that doesn't get done, we have the obligation to provide relief in exchange for reform."
States have been pleading with Duncan to waive major parts of the 2002 law, especially the order that they bring 100 percent of students to proficiency in reading and math by 2014 under pain of sanctions. Duncan has predicted the current law will brand 80,000 of the nation's 100,000 public schools as failing this fall.
The secretary has refused waivers so far but said that may change. Aides say the 100 percent proficiency standard would be his main target, and he may relax restrictions on how federal money is spent.
Several attempts in Congress since 2007 to rewrite No Child Left Behind have gone nowhere. Since no legislation has been introduced in either chamber, it is doubtful President Barack Obama will get a rewrite to sign by the start of the school year in September as he has asked.
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