BY World's Editorials Writers
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
6/12/12 at 2:52 AM
Achieving Classroom Excellence (ACE), the controversial end-of-instruction testing law, was, in effect, a bargain struck by the Legislature and the state Department of Education on one hand and local school districts on the other.
The local districts' side of the bargain was that they would prepare their high school students to pass four of seven end-of-instruction tests. Seniors who did not pass the required add-on tests are denied their diplomas. The 2,000 or so statewide who did not meet the requirement are dumped into a netherworld of students who completed 12 years of schooling, passed their coursework and have nothing to show for it.
The other side of the bargain was that the state promised to send districts money to pay for remedial efforts that would help students who are at risk of not meeting the test requirements.
Predictably, the state failed to uphold its end of the bargain.
Last week the state Board of Education, at the behest of Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi, voted to reduce funding for ACE-related remedial efforts by $1 million.
At the same time, the board eliminated $6 million in Reading Sufficiency funds, another legislative mandate that is intended to ensure that students read at grade level by third grade.
Lawmakers approved a "flat" education department budget but added new funding obligations to it, including money to implement a social promotion law and an A-F grading system to rate school districts.
Barresi pointed out that the Legislature gave the education board and department discretion over only $10.5 million of the $453 million activities fund, which pays for a variety of education enhancements. But it was Barresi's decision to reduce ACE funding and eliminate Reading Sufficiency funding while preserving several vendor-provided programs that benefit only a few schools.
She said she will ask next year's Legislature for a supplemental appropriation to restore ACE and Reading Sufficiency funding.
She certainly ought to do that. And if the Legislature doesn't come up with money to pay for ACE-remedial efforts it ought to suspend the end-of-instruction testing mandate until it does uphold its end of the bargain.