SALEM, Ore. (June 24, 2015) – In the face of federal threats to withhold millions of dollars, Gov. Kate Brown signed a bill Tuesday that allows to opt their children out of standardized Common Core testing more easily.

Introduced by Rep. Chris Gorsek (D-Troutdale) along with six Democrat and seven Republican cosponsors, House Bill 2655 (HB2655) expands on current state law which allows parents opt their children out of the tests, called Smarter Balanced, only because of a disability or for religious reasons. The new law will give parents the right to opt their children out for any reason for at least the next six school years, and will require schools to notify parents and students of that right at the start of each year. Schools also will be required to give students more information about test schedules and their purpose.

After passing the House 47-10 in April, Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education Deborah Delisle threatened the state in aa May 27 email and letter to Oregon schools chief Rob Saxton, saying that Oregon could lose $140 million in federal funding should the bill pass into law.

“This is clearly an abuse of federal power and when the U.S. Department of Education attempt to coerce a state to vote down a bill that strengthens parental rights then Congress needs to provide a stern rebuke by removing that power,” said Shane Vander Hart of Truth in American Education.

The Senate passed the bill 24-6 earlier this month.

Backers of HB2655, which include Oregon’s powerful public teachers’ union, argue that the federal government has warned other states considering new opt-out legislation this year — including Illinois, Colorado and Oklahoma — but has not yet withheld any money.

The new law comes as the backlash against Common Core testing grows in Oregon and nationwide. Parents in many school districts around the state, including Eugene and Springfield, have opted their children out of the tests in recent months.

Under the 2002 federal No Child Left Behind law, 95 percent of students in all groups must be tested or schools will be penalized.

As the opt-out movement grows, federal officials have ramped up pressure on states to ensure that at least 95 percent of students take the tests — a benchmark that they say states are legally obligated to hit. Oregon’s statewide test participation rate currently is right around 95 percent, although rates vary district to district.

Passage of HB2655 into law could change that.

 


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