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Most states to seek exception to education law

A majority of states intend to take President Barack Obama up on his offer to let them get around unpopular requirements in the "No Child Left Behind" education law, the government said Thursday.

Obama said last month he was frustrated that Congress didn't act to change the law that he has said is flawed, so he was moving forward with an effort to let qualifying states circumvent it.

His plan allows states to scrap a key requirement that all children show they are proficient in reading and math by 2014. To qualify, the states must submit a plan showing how they will meet certain requirements such as enacting standards to prepare students for college and making teachers and principals more accountable.

Some 37 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have told the Education Department that they intend to submit a plan to get a waiver around the law. Seventeen states have said they will submit a plan by Nov. 14, which means it will be reviewed in December and could be enacted as soon as early next year.

The law, passed in 2002 under President George W. Bush, has been due for a rewrite since 2007. There's been widespread agreement that the law has problems, but a growing ideological divide in Congress has made it more difficult to get the law rewritten.

This week, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chairman of the Senate committee with jurisdiction over education, released an outline of a bill that he and Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., have worked on for almost a year that would overhaul the law.

Similar to Obama's plan for states, it would apply to every state in the country and not just those that sought a waiver around the law. The committee is scheduled on Tuesday to begin hammering out the bill's language.

The GOP-led House Education and the Workforce Committee has forwarded three bills that would revamp aspects of the law but has yet to fully tackle some of the more contentious issues such as teacher effectiveness and accountability.

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Kimberly Hefling can be followed at http://twitter.com/khefling

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