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Senate rejects parental opt-out for statewide testing


The Arizona Senate rejected a proposal Monday that would have let parents opt out of having their children undergo statewide assessments.

Republican lawmakers and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas had supported the measure as a way for parents to have more control over their children’s education.

Opponents said the proposal could have put hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding at risk — though it was an unlikely scenario.

“I’m very disappointed in the vote and you’re going to make a lot of mothers unhappy,” Republican Sen. Sylvia Allen told fellow lawmakers during the vote.

Allen sponsored the bill that would have allowed parents to stop their children from taking statewide achievement tests.

The Senate defeated Senate Bill 1455 with an 18-11 vote. It could return under rules that allow a second vote.

Federal standards require states to annually measure the achievements of 95 percent of students. If less than 95 percent take the assessment, the state could risk losing at least some of its federal funding —most likely the $325 million for Arizona schools that serve low-income families.

“Withholding the funds is very much a last step for the federal government and I don’t think they take it lightly. There are a series of steps that would come before that,” said Charles Tack, spokesman for the Arizona Department of Education.

It’s unknown how many parents might choose to have their children opt out of the test, but if Arizona falls below the testing threshold, federal authorities would first ask the state to increase testing turnout before taking enforcement actions.

Allen does not believe her bill would have put federal funding in jeopardy. Federal guidelines allow states to decide how to factor the participation rate, so Arizona would not necessarily fall below the 95 percent even if a number of parents opted out, she said.

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