State promises no funding cuts for Common Core opt-outs

Parents opting out of Common Core-based testing got some good news this week:

One: It won’t mean a cut in state funding.

And two: It won’t impact grades, promotion or school-choice vouchers.

Technically, state law prohibits the Ohio Department of Education from paying for students who didn’t take a state test the previous school year, according to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Richard Ross.

However, the law also allows him to issue a waiver, permitting funding for those students, Ross wrote in an email he sent Tuesday to Ohio school officials.

“Under that authority, the department has, in the past, automatically funded these students for many years,” Ross wrote. “We plan on continuing the same practice this year. This means that we will continue to fund each student in your district, regardless of their participation.”

Schools could still see restrictions placed on federal funds, although that would only happen if fewer than 95 percent of students take the test at any one school or district – or, fewer than 95 percent of any subgroup, such as students who qualify for free and reduced lunch.

Common Core is a set of nationwide standards that detail what students should know in English and math at the end of each year. Students across Ohio started in February taking the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers tests. The PARCC tests are centered around Common Core, and, in an effort to push back against the new standards, some parents are withdrawing their children from taking the exams.

There is no statewide data on opt-outs, but numbers seem to vary greatly district to district.

At Cincinnati Public Schools, for example, only 24 students opted out, said Public Affairs Director Janet Walsh.

At Lakota Local Schools, the second largest district in the region, 194 students opted out.

At Mason City Schools, however – smaller than CPS and Lakota – 350 students opted out. That’s about 4.5 percent of the Mason students scheduled for the test, said Tracey Carson, public information officer.

Re-enforcing Ross’ announcement, the Ohio Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill that would offer “safe harbor” to students who opt out this year – meaning it won’t impact grades or promotion. House Bill 7 is largely symbolic, but supporters say it provides another level of comfort for parents who don’t their children taking the new tests.

The bill will go back to the Ohio House then on to Gov. John Kasich for approval.

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