TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senators Nia H. Gill and Shirley K. Turner to prohibit the state from withholding school aid to districts, based on participation by students in standardized tests, is now law. The legislation was in response to media reports indicating that the state Education Commissioner suggested withholding aid from districts if a significant share of the students in the district did not take the assessment developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).
“We could not allow the state to penalize local districts by withholding funding based upon arbitrary criteria set by the commissioner. After meeting with local parents in my district, and discussing the potential repercussions of aid losses based upon participation in PARCC, we decided there was a need to protect the state’s children,” said Senator Gill. “This law will 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.”
S-2881 prohibits 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. Following media reports indicating the commissioner’s suggestion of withholding state aid, 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.
“We saw a great deal of confusion surrounding the PARCC exams and the problems that can develop when a new type of standardized test is rolled out in the state. We cannot allow districts, many of which are already working under tight fiscal constraints, to be held hostage financially due to factors that in many ways are out of their control,” said Senator Turner. “This law provides protections to districts to ensure they continue to receive state aid without penalties, regardless of their students’ participation in a state exam.”
S-2881 takes effect immediately. The governor also signed legislation sponsored by Senator Turner to (S-2766/A3079) prohibit the administration of commercially-developed standardized assessments in kindergarten through second grade. The law takes effect immediately and will be applicable beginning the first full school year after the date of enactment.