With the clock ticking, federal education officials fear that calamity awaits.
If Congress doesn't move quickly to change the No Child Left Behind law, they project that a whopping 82 percent of the nation's public schools could fail to meet proficiency targets this year, facing sanctions that ultimately can include a loss of federal aid. That's up from 37 percent last year.
Beset with a case of the jitters, Education Secretary Arne Duncan is warning of “a slow-moving educational train wreck for children, parents and teachers” – and he's not waiting for the crash.
With Congress showing no signs of meeting a request by President Obama to overhaul the law by this fall, Duncan said he'll use executive authority to waive some requirements of the law, essentially freeing states from any harsh consequences if their schools fail to meet the federal testing requirements.
His threat has set off a clash on Capitol Hill, where key lawmakers say it would be a mistake to bypass Congress. They're not particularly eager to relinquish their authority to the executive branch.