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Schools consider new test fee amid budget worries

1 year ago Associated Press

State considering not paying for ACT testing after implementation of Common Core test

From Associated Press:

As they juggle school-reform demands with budget cuts, state education officials are considering retaining a traditional college-readiness test for high school juniors but passing the cost along to school districts and possibly the students' families.

The move would be just one cost-cutting possibility after Illinois schools have seen close to $1 billion in cuts since 2009, and as educators warn of more drastic cuts when revenues fall if lawmakers decide not to extend a temporary income tax hike set to expire at the end of this year.

State board officials estimate it will cost $14 million for all high school juniors to take the ACT test next year, which they want to keep even though it is scheduled to be phased out with the implementation of other exams. But they are considering providing the test free only to low-income students and requiring other families to shoulder the $52.50 cost next year.

"That's one option we'll have to consider if the funding situation doesn't go our way," State Superintendent of Education Christopher Koch told The Associated Press.

How to fund testing is one crucial component of the current state budget debate, as lawmakers grapple with whether to let the state's income tax increase roll back as scheduled from its current 5 percent to 3.75 percent in January, and what to do with the available state funds at hand. Implementing a new set of state-mandated exams is already making the state testing budget balloon.

By keeping the ACT and adding the new exams at the elementary and high school levels, the cost of state testing would total $54 million next year, double this year's $27 million.

"The ACT is one thing that parents and students want," said State Rep. Robert Pritchard of Hinckley, the House Republican spokesman on education funding. He suggested pinching state funding from other programs in order to pay for the test. "There are lots (of programs) we can't afford right now," he said.

The possibility of a new testing fee also is not sitting well with some parents.

"To me that's a cop-out," said Gary Percy, the father of two teenage daughters at Elgin District high schools. "The state really shouldn't be passing the buck like that."

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