SBE rejected just 3 percent of district waivers in 2012

Last year at this time there were mounting concerns that too many school districts would be excused from meeting a new mandate for transitional kindergarten because of ongoing fiscal hardships.

But a look back at the numbers and types of waivers granted by the California State Board of Education in 2012 shows those worries were unfounded - the board denied nine of 13 applications for relief and the remaining four were withdrawn. Almost all of that activity took place early last summer and seemed to set the tone for the year.

Where the board did use its authority to waive virtually any part of the state's Education Code was to give districts latitude when it came to meeting class-size requirements. Just as it has since the onset of the recession, the board granted 88 waivers in 2012 from fiscal penalties districts would otherwise have faced for having student-teacher ratios above state benchmarks.

The other large basket of waivers the board approved last year were given to districts enrolled in the Quality Education Investment Act - a program that came out of a court settlement and offered struggling schools extra state support on the condition of meeting several performance and administrative goals.

QEIA schools have been required to reduce class sizes by five students from a base year (either 2006 or 2007) or maintain an average of 25 students - but because of big budget cuts many could not meet that goal. As a result, 78 districts petitioned the board for a waiver from the requirement - 56 were approved with conditions; four were denied; nine were withdrawn and on nine more the board took no action.

The state board's waiver authority is defined under sections 33050-33053 in the Education Code, giving the board the ability to provide relief when no other remedy is available. The board also has some oversight of parts of the federal No Child Left Behind Act under agreement with the U.S. Department of Education.

Last year, a total of 499 waiver applications were processed, with 353 receiving approval, 28 denied and 40 being withdrawn. No formal action was taken on a total of 78 waivers, which, under board rules, means most were likely approved for one year.

Overall the board approved 75 percent of waiver applications while rejecting just 3 percent; 12 percent of the requests were withdrawn. The board took no action on the remaining 10 percent.

Here's a rundown of the major categories of waivers considered by the state board last year:

Class size

- Grades 1-3: 26 total; 20 approved with conditions; six no action taken.

- Grades 4-8: 48 total; 41 approved with conditions; two withdrawn; five no action.

- Kindergarten: five total; one approved with conditions; four no action.

- Grades K-3: 28 total; 26 approved with conditions; two no action.

Open Enrollment: 18 total; 12 approved with conditions; one approved without conditions; five no action.

QEIA

- API Growth Target: eight total; one approved with conditions; six denied; one withdrawn.

- Class size: 78 total; 56 approved with conditions; four denied; nine withdrawn; nine no action.

- Highly Qualified Teachers: Six total; five approved with conditions; one withdrawn.

School District Reorganization

- Elimination of Election Requirement: 22 total; 19 approved with conditions; two withdrawn; one no action.

School Site Council

- Number and Composition: 26 total; 17 approved with conditions; one withdrawn; eight no action.

- Shared Site Council: 18 overall; 13 approved with conditions; one withdrawn; four no action.

Special Education

- Extended School Year: 15 total; 14 approved with conditions; one no action.

To read more visit: http://www.cde.ca.gov/re/lr/wr/