Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Opt Out Veto Threat

Governor Rauner Threatens Veto of Strongly Supported Parent Opt Out Bill, using Factless Fear Tactics to Scare Legislators
Parent Advocacy Group, Raise Your Hand is calling foul on Governor Bruce Rauner’s threat to veto HB306, a bill with wide bipartisan support from legislators and parents around the state that would clarify a parent’s right to opt his or her child out of state-mandated standardized testing.  The bill would ensure that there were no negative consequences for opt out and that children were treated fairly and kindly if their parents chose to opt them out.
HB306 is set to be voted on in the Illinois House tomorrow(Friday) in order to move to the Senate. But Rauner has already threatened to veto it, saying that the state is risking a more than $1 billion funding loss if it passes.   
There is no factual basis for this claim. In fact,
1.At least 7 other states have laws and regulations allowing parents to opt out children already. None of them have ever lost any funding. The New Jersey State Assembly recently passed a very similar opt out bill unanimously.
2.The federal government has never cut any state’s Title I funds under ESEA for any reason, including low participation rates in federally-mandated testing.  Last year New York State had fewer than 95% of children participate in math testing statewide.  Even within Illinois, every year several districts do not have 95% participation, particularly at the subgroup level.
3.The NCLB waiver that IL is operating under right now includes no penalties requiring loss of funds for participation rate, even for the schools labeled as most poorly performing.
4.The US Congress is currently in the midst of working on renewing ESEA. The version that passed the Senate education (HELP) committee unanimously last week would remove all punitive measures attached to accountability. It would continue to require 95% participation, but, just like now, there would be no funding withheld if this was not met. The bill also says that nothing in the federal law preempts a state or local law allowing parents to refuse federally-mandated tests. In addition, an amendment passed that would make clear that ESEA does not preempt state or local law on opt-outs, essentially codifying the actual practice in the states or districts with opt-out laws now.
Opt out will happen whether this bill passes or not. Illinois will eventually have less than 95% participation because parents and students will come to realize that these tests are designed to hurt children and public schools, not help them.  
But unless HB306 becomes law, individual children and families will continue to be mistreated: parents will have no way to protect those children who do not have the ability to refuse the tests on their own---short of keeping them out of school.
Monty Neill, executive director of FairTest, agrees that there is no [legal basis or] precedent for the federal government to withhold Title I money because of opt out, and he says parents across the country are hearing the same distorted information from their state department’s of education and the US Department of Education:
“95% is part of the requirement to make “adequate yearly progress” (AYP). But NCLB waivers suspend AYP sanctions.
“The U.S. Department of Education has now issued vague statements to several states suggesting, without ever being explicit, that Title I funds could be in jeopardy if districts do not test at least 95% of their students. This is a scare tactic designed to assist states in bullying their parents into compliance with testing mandates,” said Neill. “In fact, the Assistant Secretary, Deborah Delisle, also said the Department does not want to take money away from low income schools.”

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