State Superintendent of Education John White said Monday he is concerned that Gov. Bobby Jindal’s budget proposal will exclude dollars for standardized tests, which he said could cost Louisiana $800 million in federal aid.
Jindal, whose office disputed the comments, is set to unveil Friday his spending plans for the budget year that begins on July 1.
White said that, while he has not heard anything official, he has gotten questions from reporters and others about chances that Jindal’s budget will exclude state funds for future testing.
“I don’t know if they are true,” he said of the reports. “But in advance of the budget, I will tell you that accountability and standardized testing are the laws of the state.”
Last week, several key state lawmakers said they received word that the governor had decided not to include dollars for standardized tests in his budget and that an announcement to that effect was imminent.
No such announcement developed.
Opting not to include testing dollars in the executive budget, White said, would amount to an unfunded mandate.
“If that is not in the budget, it would be devastating for our state, not just because we would no longer have an annual measure of student learning but also because we would jeopardize $800 million in federal funding,” White said.
The superintendent said dollars for the tests typically total between $5 million and $10 million per year.
It’s unclear which exams would be affected.
However, any such move could affect dollars for future Common Core tests, end-of-course exams that high school seniors take and other reviews.
The proposal, if it happens, would not affect plans for Common Core tests set for March 16-20.
Asked if the governor wanted to comment, a spokesman referred to a prepared statement from Assistant Chief of Staff Stafford Palmieri.
Palmieri said White, like other state agency heads, will be required to trim his department’s budget in the upcoming spending plan.
“The superintendent will have some level of discretion in determining how to achieve the necessary reductions,” she said in the statement.
The state faces a $1.6 billion shortfall starting July 1 to keep spending at current levels.
White and Jindal have been at odds for months on Common Core and the assessments that accompany the new standards in reading, writing and math.
White backs Common Core and the exams.
Jindal opposes Common Core and the related tests, which are called Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC.
White, in a conference call with reporters, said he mostly agrees with accountability suggestions made in newspaper columns written by state Sens. Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte, and Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe, and state Reps. Chris Broadwater, R-Hammond, and Walt Leger, D-New Orleans.
He said that later this year, and subject to review by Louisiana’s top school board, the state will seek bids on new Common Core exams that include both PARCC-like questions and those based in Louisiana.
All will be good for state-to-state comparisons, which is cited as a key feature of Common Core.
White also agreed with lawmakers in saying that a panel of parents, teachers and higher education experts should start work this fall to review math and English standards slightly ahead of schedule, which state law requires every seven years.
Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @WillSentell. For more coverage of government and politics, follow our Politics Blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog/