TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Nia H. Gill that would prohibit the withholding of state aid based on the student participation rate in the state tests developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) was approved today by the Assembly Education Committee.
“Districts are trying their best to work within the parameters they’ve been given and under very challenging circumstances to conduct the PARCC tests. Despite their efforts, schools across the state have seen varied participation rates of students in these new tests,” said Senator Gill. “We cannot allow schools that are already struggling with tight budgets to suffer additional cuts due to circumstances that are out of their control. This bill will ensure schools are protected against repercussions that unfairly punish districts, educators and students.”
Specifically, the bill (S-2881) would prohibit the Commissioner of Education from withholding State school aid from a school district based on the participation rate of its students on any state assessments. The bill is in response to media reports that indicated the commissioner suggested the possibility of withholding state aid if a significant share of students in a district did not take the assessment. Upon learning of this issue, Senator Gill sent a letter to Education Commissioner Hespe seeking clarification on his statement. In response, the commissioner confirmed he wished for the department to retain the right to withhold funding based on student participation in standardized tests. The bill would prevent districts from being penalized for matters beyond their control.
“We cannot allow the state to penalize local districts by withholding funding based upon arbitrary criteria set by the commissioner,” said Senator Gill. “This would prevent the state from taking action against a district related to participation in standardized tests, whether it is the PARCC test or any future state assessment conducted in New Jersey.”
The bill was approved unanimously by the Senate Education Committee last month. The Assembly Education Committee approved it by a vote of 6-2-1.