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Emma Brown reports in The Washington Post that the Senate turned down an amendment that would have allowed parents to opt out of federally mandated tests without penalty.
The lead author of the Senate bill said that this decision should be left to states.
The chamber voted 64 to 32 against the amendment, proposed by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) amid a backlash against mandated standardized tests. “Parents, not politicians or bureaucrats, will have the final say over whether individual children take tests,” he said.
But Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) — the Republican co-sponsor of the carefully crafted bipartisan bill — spoke forcefully against the proposal, saying it would strip states of the right to decide whether to allow parents to opt out.
“I say to my Republican friends, do we only agree with local control when we agree with the local policy?” said Alexander, who has framed the bill as an effort to transfer power over education from the federal government to the states.
I have great respect for Senator Alexander but his argument is not logical. The federal government mandates the tests, but it leaves to states the power to decide whether parents have the right to opt out. Why is the federal government mandating any tests? Why is this not a state responsibility? If he were being consistent, he would leave the testing and the right to opt out to the states. I would just remind the Congress that the Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965 was a resource equity act, not a testing and accountability act. It was meant to send money to schools and districts that enrolled students who lived in poverty. It was No Child Left Behind that turned the ESEA into a testing and accountability act in 2001-02. And it was the Improving America’s Schools Act of 1994 that first proposed that states create their own standards and assessments.
No matter what the Congress does, no matter what the states do, parents can opt their children out of testing if they believe the tests are neither valid nor reliable.
If anyone has a list of Senators who voted for or against the amendment, please send it.