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GOP demands study of Obama's education waivers for states

President Barack Obama speaks about developments in Iraq, Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, in Chilmark, Mass., during his family vacation on the island of Martha's Vineyard. Obama welcomed new leadership in Iraq as "a promising step forward" Monday amid a political and security crisis in Baghdad, saying the only lasting solution is the formation of an inclusive government. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Republicans in the House and Senate have asked the Government Accountability Office to study how the Obama administration has waived provisions of federal education law, which has resulted in waivers for 42 states and the District of Columbia.

Republicans have argued for more than a year that the Obama administration has given states waivers from provisions of the No Child Left Behind law, and that this has given the administration more influence over states as they design their education programs.

President Barack Obama has issued 42 waivers from federal education law, and Republicans are asking how those waivers work, and what states are agreeing to in order to receive those waivers. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.) and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee ranking member Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) reiterated this point in a Tuesday letter to the GAO. They said the waivers are effectively excluding Congress from setting

"In order to receive waivers, these states were required to comply with a new set of requirements, not authorized by Congress, related to standards and assessments, school accountability, and teacher and principal evaluation systems," they wrote.

Kline and Alexander wrote that Tennessee submitted more than 1,000 pages to the government to receive its waiver, and Minnesota's application was 700 pages long. "However, Congress has little information about how the department utilizes the data required of these and other states to grant, deny, renew, or revoke a state waiver," they wrote.

They also wrote that some waivers have been revoked, but the Department of Education "has provided no justifications for how these seemingly contradictory decisions."

The letter asked GAO to investigate how the Department approves, denies, renews and revokes these waivers, what educational changes states have agreed to in the process of receiving these waivers, and other questions.

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